Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The SBC Report

First, a warning - this blog post is dealing with the Sexual Abuse Task Force report about the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee response to sexual abuse allegations. This subject matter may be triggering to you. It is not necessary that you read the report or even this blog post if it will do emotional or spiritual damage.

Second, an apology - this blog post is dealing with SBC life & practice... and my first attempts at writing it bogged down rather seriously in trying to explain some of the vagaries and oddities of the denomination I have been a part of my entire life. If you find yourself confused by terminology or certain references, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and I'll do my best to clarify and/or explain.

Third, a second apology - this blog post is really long. (I have a lot to say & share.)

The Report

For almost two decades, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been contacting the Southern Baptist Convention (“SBC”) Executive Committee (“EC”) to report child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff. They made phone calls, mailed letters, sent emails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies, and contacted the press…only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.

Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse. They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations. In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the S could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy - even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation. 

First Reaction

On Monday morning (after the release of the report on Sunday afternoon), I posted on Facebook:
I'm nearly 200 pages into the report and am struggling with immense anger - both with the legal folks who prioritized protecting the organization over protecting and caring for survivors & local churches AND with the "spiritual" leaders who chose in many cases not to push back on legal advice that was clearly anti-Biblical... and in some cases, chose to actively participate in covering up/excusing sexual predators.
A good friend replied that I was the first person he'd seen that was surprised by this news. 

The sad part is that he was wrong - I wasn't surprised. I've been in SBC and evangelical circles all my life. I replied:
It's a level of clarity that I'm both sickened by and extremely grateful for...
And that sums up my initial reaction quite well - while I'm not blindsided by the revelation of the excuses, posturing, callousness, and outright hypocrisy, I'm deeply angered by the sins of apathy, cowardice, and self-protection. I resonate with Psalm 5:10 (VOICE):
Find them guilty, O True God; let their own devices bring them ruin. Throw them out, and let them drown in the deluge of their sin, for in revolt they brazenly spit in Your face.
At the same time, I'm hopeful that dragging this into the daylight will begin the long, hard process of not only changing who is in leadership at the Executive Committee but the needed culture changes in SBC life to prioritize the care of survivors and end the "say you're sorry and shake hands" stupidity when it comes to dealing with sexual abusers.

As well, I'm thankful for the messengers to the 2021 SBC meeting, who overwhelmingly demanded this investigation... and to the men & women of integrity on the Executive Committee who refused to roll over to political pressures and scare tactics in the fall of 2021, thus insuring that attorney/client privilege was waived for this investigation. To borrow from the book of Hebrews, "The world was not worthy of them." (11:38 HCSB)

My Jumbled Thoughts

  • I have questions about my own decisions as a former pastor and how I dealt with members of my congregations who were accused and/or convicted of sexual abuse. Was I too trusting of their confessions? Did the safeguards we put in place adequately fence in destructive behavior? Was it too easy to lean into grace for the accused while doing a substandard work of grieving with and supporting those caught in the fallout of their sinful & destructive betrayal?
  • You may not like Kristin Du Mez's Jesus and John Wayne or Beth Allison Barr's The Making of Biblical Womanhood or Sheila Gregorie's The Great Sex Rescue... but the behavior and beliefs made clear in the Guidepost report means we have to grapple with the issues raised in these books. The rationalization of toxic masculinity, the cherry-picking of church history and Scripture to exclude the role of women in the faith, and the excusing of men's sexual sins whilst blaming women for their tempting ways are, as one of my mentors in ministry used to say, "straight from hell and smell like smoke." We can do better. We can definitely be more Biblical.
  • It's substantially past time to stop looking at the 1967 meeting between at Cafe du Monde between Page Patterson and Paul Pressler as some kind of shining moment in SBC history and instead note that both of the key players in the Conservative Resurgence are profoundly compromised in their integrity when it comes to the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse (Patterson) and what looks to be clear predatory sexual behavior (Pressler). 
  • That same kind of second look needs to taken at the Conservative Baptist Network, supported by Patterson after he was fired from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. All of the Executive Committee members in attendance who are affiliated with that group voted to oppose following the will of the convention messengers and refuse to waive privilege. (For more information on the history of the CBN and the role of Page Patterson, Robert Downen (journalist for the Houston Chronicle) has what he calls "an absurdly long and meticulously sourced thread" available on Twitter.)
  • We as Southern Baptists have to quit acting like our polity - the autonomy of local Baptist churches and general Baptist bodies - came down the mountain on a extra "secret tablet" with Moses.  It was clearly used as an excuse to avoid accountability in dealing with sexual sin and hypocritical practices of cover-ups and excuses. This does not mean we need to create some kind of hierarchal denominational structure - it simply means we have more options to cooperate to do the right and godly thing. (Note: the 1992 Resolution on the Autonomy of Local Baptist Churches references not one Scripture passage - which ought to tell us something.)
  • That said, I can't get too excited about this... the job of changing the culture that supported and/or ignored the sinful behaviors is going to be a difficult and lengthy process. It's just too easy to trade silence for access and proximity to power.
  • What now? I think the recommendations of the report are excellent - now it is up to the messengers to support those recommendations with specific action.

Other Thoughtful Responses

If you still refuse to believe facts stacked Himalayan high before your eyes and insist the independent group hired to conduct the investigation is part of a (liberal!) human conspiracy or demonic attack, you’re not just deceived. You are part of the deception.

If you can go on your merry way in your SBC organization and carry on like nothing happened and like none of this convention rot concerns you, it will not have been “they” who decayed a denomination. It will have been you. With this I will do my best to close my mouth in regard to the SBC:

If you can dismiss or explain away this investigative report or do the bare minimum for the sake of appearances, still denying that your men’s club mentality was in any way complicit, my head covering’s off to you. 

Lottie Moon’s tiny little body is rolling over in her grave.

I loved you. You have betrayed your women. It’s too late to make it right with me. It is not too late to make it right with them.
“Their main concern,” the report says of the SBC’s leaders, “was avoiding any potential liability for the SBC.” Consider that for a moment. Their main concern was not women and children who were violated by sexual predators. It was the limitation of their legal exposure. What does that say about the content and quality of their beliefs?

There is also a warning here specifically to Christian institutions. When pastors believe that the importance of their mission — reaching the lost, spreading the Gospel — somehow justifies the concealment of terrible crimes, they have crossed the line into heresy. The Christian message can never be advanced through strategic lies. Deception is its magnetic opposite. 
We were told they wanted to conserve the old time religion. What they wanted was to conquer their enemies and to make stained-glass windows honoring themselves—no matter who was hurt along the way.

Who cannot now see the rot in a culture that mobilizes to exile churches that call a woman on staff a “pastor” or that invite a woman to speak from the pulpit on Mother’s Day, but dismisses rape and molestation as “distractions” and efforts to address them as violations of cherished church autonomy? In sectors of today’s SBC, women wearing leggings is a social media crisis; dealing with rape in the church is a distraction.

Most of the people in the pews believed the Bible and wanted to support the leaders who did also. They didn’t know that some would use the truth of the Bible to prop up a lie about themselves.
I would strongly suggest reading Dr. Moore's heart-rending response to the report... he does not pull any punches. In his former role as head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, he fought to do the right thing.

David French
The majority of American evangelicals (and evangelical pastors) aren’t guilty of the abuse exposed in the Guidepost report—or of the abuse exposed in multiple other places at multiple other times—but we are all responsible for repairing our culture. On June 14, Baptist messengers will gather in Anaheim, California, for their annual convention. It will be their responsibility to take decisive steps to reform their Church.

But the responsibility does not rest with Baptists alone. Christians have created a culture that all too often celebrates male power at the expense of female dignity. Our churches frequently follow charismatic leaders even when they wave red flags in our face. And when other churches fail and other leaders fall, we shake our heads and say, “Thank God we’re not like them.”

Reform isn’t just a matter of prudence. Christians believe in a God who burns with anger when his people abuse and neglect the most vulnerable among us. Jesus once said it would be better for a millstone to be tied around a man’s neck and for him to be “thrown into the sea” than for him to cause a child to stumble.

No one knows this better than Baptists. Few denominations understand the power of character better than the Southern Baptist Church. In fact, in 1998 the Church passed a resolution on the importance of moral character in public officials that echoes beyond politicians.

I’m haunted by one clause in particular. It says: “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.” Millions of Americans don’t believe in God’s judgment, but Christians do, and while we are grateful that God is merciful, we should tremble with the knowledge that he is also just, and his justice can be terrible indeed.
There is a fair share of blame to go around now that the light has gone on. Including and perhaps especially, about why it took so long for that light to go on, and why survivors had to carry that fight. But right now, the SBC Messengers did good work in commissioning this investigation and giving investigators access to all the information. It was good work. And it will have an impact, if you follow it through. And I do believe, for the vast majority in the SBC, bringing truth forward, standing against evil, and shining light into the darkness, is why they do this work. Because that is also the work of Christ.

I remember my Sunday School teachers telling me repeatedly “the gospel isn’t just fire insurance. If you really believe it, it will change the way you act. It’s about what you do here and now, not just about what happens when this life is over.” That’s going to be an important reminder as you weigh where to put time, and effort and energy and resources. Standing against abuse and caring for those who were crushed, isn’t a distraction from your mission. It’s an integral part of it. Because the gospel isn’t just fire insurance.

Rachael Denhollander is a survivor, an attorney, a follower of Christ, and was an advisor to the Sexual Abuse Task Force that commissioned the investigation. Her entire statement is worth your time - especially as she talks about a cultural unwillingness in SBC life to reach out for help "outside our walls". 

My Final Word

We must be a people who do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) We must be a denomination who "give(s) justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain(s) the right of the afflicted and the destitute, rescue(s) the weak and the needy; [and] deliver(s) them from the hand of the wicked" (Psalm 82:3-4 ESV). Words are not enough... "thoughts and prayers" and public offers of assistance are meaningless if they are not followed up with action (James 2:14-24).

So, how will we act? How will we follow through? 

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Comprehensive List of Mark's Top 100 Games (Spring 2022)

Here's the list... from #1 to #100 + the Honorable Mentions and the five "MIA" games that should have been on there at the end.

If you'd like to read more commentary on the list, check out my article about it on the Opinionated Gamers website.

The Top 100
  1. Memoir 44
  2. Race for the Galaxy
  3. Clash of Cultures
  4. Heroscape
  5. Armageddon
  6. Dungeon Alliance
  7. Catan
  8. Unmatched: Battle of Legends
  9. Im Reich der Wüstensöhne
  10. Pandemic Legacy: Seasons 1 & 2
  11. Zooloretto / Aquaretto
  12. Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel
  13. Ticket to Ride
  14. Lost Ruins of Arnak
  15. DungeonQuest
  16. The Quacks of Quedlinburg
  17. Marvel Champions: The Card Game
  18. Imperium Classics/Legends
  19. Africa
  20. Xia: Legends of a Drift System
  21. Res Arcana
  22. Dune: Imperium
  23. Undaunted: Normandy/North Africa
  24. Favor of the Pharaoh
  25. StreetSoccer
  26. Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld
  27. Ascending Empires
  28. Monopoly: Tropical Tycoon DVD Game
  29. Minigolf Designer
  30. Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit
  31. Dungeon Lords
  32. Quantum
  33. Wildlands
  34. Eminent Domain
  35. Jump Drive
  36. Trails of Tucana
  37. Tales of the Arabian Nights
  38. New Frontiers
  39. It's a Wonderful World
  40. Era: Medieval Age
  41. Thebes
  42. Can't Stop
  43. Core Worlds
  44. The Princes of Florence
  45. Baseball Highlights 2045
  46. Innovation
  47. The Taverns of Tiefenthal
  48. Risk Legacy
  49. Showmanager
  50. Claustrophobia
  51. For What Remains
  52. Bärenpark
  53. Ra
  54. CloudAge
  55. Cartographers
  56. Clank!
  57. Tobago
  58. Septikon: Uranium Mining
  59. O Zoo le Mio
  60. Nexus Ops
  61. Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel
  62. Lord of the Rings
  63. Impact: Battle of Elements / Strike
  64. Roll Player
  65. My City
  66. The Downfall of Pompeii
  67. Tanz der Hornochsen!
  68. Downforce
  69. Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier
  70. Vom Kap bis Kairo
  71. Suburbia
  72. Trains
  73. Starship Catan
  74. Galaxy Trucker
  75. Giro Galoppo
  76. Gingerbread House
  77. Around the World in 80 Days
  78. Rhino Hero: Super Battle
  79. Diamant
  80. The Dragon & Flagon
  81. Zahltag
  82. Traumfabrik/Hollywood Blockbuster/Dream Factory
  83. Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar
  84. Wurfel Bohnanza
  85. The Quest for El Dorado
  86. Survive: Space Attack!
  87. Bohnanza
  88. Arctic Scavengers
  89. Anno 1503
  90. Mississippi Queen
  91. Agricola
  92. Canyon
  93. Route 66
  94. Flamme Rouge
  95. Kauchuk/Rule the Realm
  96. Entdecker
  97. Dice Town
  98. Marrakech
  99. The Rivals for Catan
  100. Columbus
MIA Games
  • 7 Wonders Duel
  • Basari
  • Drôles de Zèbres
  • Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
  • Jamaica
  • Medici
  • Port Royal
  • Rattlebones
  • Snow Tails
  • Witch's Brew

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sunday, May 15, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                      MIA from the Top 100 2022: Terraforming Mars

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not sure what happened... but five games that SHOULD have been in my top 100 somehow got missed. So, I'm blogging about them now. Sheesh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Terraforming Mars

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • rank: 5
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • rating: 8.4
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • published: 2016
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • available
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Despite my attempts to avoid Terraforming Mars for a number of years, this game sucked me in. It combines hand management, resource management, engine-building, leeching off other players work, racing to complete goals, and even a bit of take that. And it works.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • While I get why some people like it with a full complement of five players, I think I enjoy it more with 2-3 players or as a solo game.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Resist the urge to throw everything into the game for first-timers... there's a lot to process. It's also helpful to explain why you are doing what you are doing during their first game - just not in an obnoxious manner.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • It's important to build the engine you have/draw rather than the one you wish you had. It's a long enough game that wishing you were doing something different can make seem unending.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • There are a LOT of expansions for this game system - I own all of them. The only two I think are really necessary, though, are Prelude and the Hellas/Elysium alternate map.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Thanks to the generosity of a good friend, I also own the 3D pieces... and they are a delight.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • I would recommend a better play mat for each player than the one provided... something that makes it less likely that a table bump would end the game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Saturday, May 14, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                          MIA from the Top 100 2022: Sentinels of the Multiverse

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not sure what happened... but five games that SHOULD have been in my top 100 somehow got missed. So, I'm blogging about them now. Sheesh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sentinels of the Multiverse
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • rank: 477
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • rating: 7.2
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • published: 2011
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • available - but there's a new edition in print (which is actually really good... and if you're new to the game, I'd start with the Definitive Edition)
                                                                                                                                                                                                            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 definitely 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 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.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • OblivAeon is the final expansion for the game... and it's a table-eating 3.5-4 hour slugfest against multiple foes. It's an attempt to recreate the full-on nuttiness of the original comic book Crisis on Infinite Earths... and it succeeds. It's not for the faint of heart... but my eldest son and I love it. (Out of 6-7 plays, we've only won once.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • My boys & I created a way to play that we really like - The Bloodsworn Arena. Basically, you send one team up against one weak villain after another and see how long you can last. My younger son managed to get ALL of Unity's mechanical golems in play - which is an impressive amount of firepower. (The picture here was taken during that game... and Collin is pictured with his plushy Mr. Chomps.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • I don't think the Sidekick app is necessary - I've found it to be as fiddly as using tokens. (I have added some more generic tokens to my set for marking Nemesis status and Setback's Unlucky pool, etc.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • OTOH, I think that the Sentinels app is a fantastic addition to my iPad gaming library... we have all the expansions in digital form as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Friday, May 13, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                              MIA from the Top 100 2022: Nemo's War

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm not sure what happened... but five games that SHOULD have been in my top 100 somehow got missed. So, I'm blogging about them now. Sheesh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nemo's War

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • rank: 276
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • rating: 7.9
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • published: 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • in print
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • A solo "wargame" that is brimming with thematic touches (from the event deck to some of the unusual ship choices)... and an impressive level of variability created simply by changing Nemo's objective.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Nemo’s War was designed as a solitaire game – everything from the unidirectional layout of the board to the theme of the game scream “low player count”. That said, there are variants in the rule book to play with more players… but I frankly have no interest in messing up what has been a delight as a solo game with extra people.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Nemo’s War reminds me a bit of old school wargames – ships have attack and defense values, there are a lot of dice rolls, and there is even a printed CRT on the board for the various actions. At the same time, it incorporates action expenditures, bag draws, ways to mitigate bad die rolls, etc. from the more modern game designs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Each objective demands different play styles and trade-offs, which I find endlessly fascinating. So far, I’ve proven to be the most successful at exploration – while all-out war with the nations does not seem to be my forte. I must also note that I play on the lowest difficulty setting – I cannot imagine cranking this up to the highest level… I’d be fish food in a few turns.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The game runs about 90 minutes now that I’ve internalized the rules and the order of play – it isn’t unusual for me to play a couple of times in a night if I’m stuck in a hotel on a business trip. And I’m always eager to play it again.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • There are multiple expansion packs available - I sprung for all of them. The Bold & Caring pack adds 2 new objectives, which makes the game even more varied.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The Journey's End expansion just shipped... and it's well worth your time & money!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thursday, May 12, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                                MIA from the Top 100 2022: Fast Food Franchise

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm not sure what happened... but five games that SHOULD have been in my top 100 somehow got missed. So, I'm blogging about them now. Sheesh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fast Food Franchise
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rank: 6,094
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rating: 6.3
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • published: 1992
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • really out of print
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Imagine if the designer of Race for the Galaxy decided to take making a roll'n'move that both gamers & non-gamers could love... that combined some very Monopoly-ish elements with tactical board play. And then you can wake up & play it, because this is actually Tom Lehmann's first game design!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Despite initial appearances, all of the companies are viable options for strategies to win Fast Food Franchise. (Some require you to open a second company - particularly those that grow quickly but don't generate cash from other players.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • That said, you must watch your cash flow - relative both to your own building needs and the increasing costs of paying your competitors.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Rookie mistake? Not advertising.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • There are two expansions that exist (note: I don't use the word "available"): 2 more companies (Tacos Today & Noodles to Go)... and a set of old skool fast food worker hats for each of the companies.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Fast Food Franchise was one of the 138 Games to Play Before You Die over on the Opinionated Gamers website.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Here's what I wrote about the game for The One Hundred.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • I talked with Tom a few years back about the chances of this getting reprinted... he is continuing to try to make that happen, which will make a number of my friends very happy. (But don't hold your breath.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Wednesday, May 11, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                                MIA from the Top 100 2022: 7 Wonders

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm not sure what happened... but five games that SHOULD have been in my top 100 somehow got missed. So, I'm blogging about them now. Sheesh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                7 Wonders

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rank: 78
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rating: 7.7
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • published: 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • in print
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Card drafting meets civilization building... and it's playable with 3-7 players in a pretty consistent 45 minutes. No "wonder" it got all those awards... 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • You don't have to jump on the science train to score big points - but you do need to burn up science cards for cash or wonder building to prevent others from doing it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Military still doesn't make sense to me - the worst point loss you can take is -6... and it can be less than that if you can talk your neighbor(s) into a truce.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The new edition is nice - I've only had a chance to play it online but the symbols are easier to teach/use. (They are based on the system used for 7 Wonders: Duel - another game I highly recommend.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • I'm a big enough fan to picked up all of the available expansions - including the oddball stuff like the Wonder Pack, the Anniversary Leader & Cities cards, and the Catan wonder. And with experienced players, I like playing with all of them, though it is a bit overwhelming.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Cities is the easiest expansion to add to the game - and it contains the rules for team play, which is actually pretty cool. (Note: team play will allow you to play with 8 players.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Armada is quite enjoyable - and adds some nice twists to the game that require players to pay attention to more than just their immediate neighbors.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The laws portion of Babel and the Leaders expansion are the two most difficult expansions to add to the game - they have lots of new symbols that can confuse players.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Here's my first look at the Cities expansion after I played the prototype.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • I wrote a preview of the Babel expansion back in 2014 as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tuesday, May 10, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                                #1: Memoir '44 (Mark's Top 100 2022)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Memoir '44
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rank: 156
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rating: 7.6
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • published: 2004
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • in print
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The best (and best supported!) of the Command & Colors games... it combines a wonderous toy factor (plastic army men & tanks!) along with remarkably evocative recreations of WW2 battles. This is the perfect collision of all the eras of my gaming life: it's got enough warfare &; tactics for the chit-pusher in me, the gorgeous plastic bits remind me of the day we cracked open Axis & Allies for the first time, and the speedy gameplay fits my current lifestyle. The plethora (si, Jeffe) of scenarios is a definite point in favor of Memoir '44, as well as one of the cleverest 'fog of war' mechanisms ever - the command deck.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Memoir '44 is splendid right out of the box... though the first couple of scenarios are probably the weakest and don't show off the game as well as they could. (They do a good job of getting players used to how the game works.) Don't give up on it until you've played some of the later scenarios.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • There are a LOT of expansions... and I personally own at least one or two of each of them. (Point of fact: my Memoir '44 collection weighs over 30 pounds now.) There are no duds in the set... though probably the least valuable to a casual player is the Terrain Pack.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • BoardGameArena is currently working on an implementation of Memoir '44!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • My favorite way to play is 2 player Breakthrough (using the Breakthrough deck included in the Winter Wars expansion). Close behind that is playing in Overlord (multi-player team) mode or playing a campaign (using one of the Campaign Books).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • I've written a number of reviews (review copies provided) of Memoir '44 expansions over the years:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Here's what I wrote about it for The One Hundred - both personally & for the group.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • In just a couple of weeks, I'll be playing in the Chattanooga Open, a Memoir '44 tournament - I promise to report back and blog about my experience!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Monday, May 09, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                                #2: Race for the Galaxy (Mark's Top 100 2022)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Race for the Galaxy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rank: 69
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rating: 7.8
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • published: 2007
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • in print
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • After you climb the iconography mountain to figure out the game, Race for the Galaxy is an amazing adventure in hand management & reading your opponents' mind - made even better by clever card design & interaction as well as great sci-fi art.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Learning Race for the Galaxy can be a bit of a chore - of course, since I've ranked it #2 on my list, you know I think it's worth it - but there are some things you can do to make it easier.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • First, don't add any of the expansions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Second, the first time you play, play two games in a row.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • The first game should be open-handed & use the preset hands from the base game.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • The second game can be "normal".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Third, don't get obsessed about winning your first few games. Use them (they're short!) to explore the gamespace & see how cards can work together.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • There are five expansion sets available for Race for the Galaxy, all of which add numerous cards to the deck:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • The Gathering Storm (which adds a fifth player, goals & a robust solitaire system)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Rebel vs. Imperium (which builds on the previous expansion, adding a sixth player & rules for takeovers)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • The Brink of War (which builds on the previous two expansions, adding prestige & the prestige/search action)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Alien Artifacts (Alien Artifacts does NOT build on the previous expansions but instead is meant to be combined solely with the base game. It adds a fifth player & a new mode of play in which you explore the Alien Orb.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Xeno Invasion (the newest expansion - again, a stand-alone addition to the base game that adds the potential for a non-player adversary attacking all players.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Between the iOS app powered by Keldon's AI and the version of Keldon's AI online, I'm comfortable estimating that I've played Race against an AI over 2k-3k times.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • My favorite way to play is 2 player advanced with goals & prestige... and no takeovers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • I'm surprised how little I've written about Race for the Galaxy - evidently, I've been too busy actually playing the game to blog about it!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • This is the fifth of five Tom Lehmann games on my top 50 countdown!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sunday, May 08, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                                #3: Clash of Cultures (Mark's Top 100 2022)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Clash of Cultures 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rank: 356
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rating: 7.6
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • published: 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • the original edition is out of print... but the new edition (which includes the impossible to find expansion and a number of tweaks) is available
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • My favorite civilization-building game... the free-wheeling tech-tree and relatively simple mechanics make for an excellent play experience with 2, 3 or 4 players.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Playing an online game of the Tresham version of Civilization a couple of years ago makes me like Clash of Cultures even more. The tech tree decisions are more interesting, the random events aren't earth-shattering, and the gameplay has more variety. I'm pretty much done with classic Civ.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • There are multiple ways to win Clash of Cultures - we've had games that focused on military build-up and games where trade was king. The direction of the game is often affected by the layout of the board.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The expansion is highly recommended for the original edition - it not only adds cavalry & elephants & extra buildings, it adds historically based civilizations to the game. But good luck finding a copy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • I have not played the new edition... but one of my persistent opponents at Gulf Games shared numerous photos and rule summaries with me, so I'm generally very positive about it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • I have not written a lot about Clash of Cultures... I need to fix that!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Saturday, May 07, 2022

                                                                                                                                                                                                                #4: Heroscape (Mark's Top 100 2022)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rank: 405
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rating: 7.4
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • published: 2004
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Print Status
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • out of print... which is so very, very sad
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Why It's On The List
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Heroscape is the ultimate blending of board game & miniatures game... and, in a slick move that allowed them to make lots of cool figures, a great blending of genres, as all the characters are warriors sucked through time & space into the world of Heroscape. So, you've got Matrix guys & Braveheart & dragons & robots & kung fu monks & gorillas with guns... yep, it's the ultimate boy game. (And while kids can start with this one at 7-8 years old, there's enough going on that you keep playing it well into your adult years - in my case, age 57 & counting!)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tips & Tricks:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • While I have a complete set of figures (including many double & triple sets of squads) as well as two of each terrain expansion, I'm a relative lightweight in the realm of serious Heroscape players.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • A tough side effect of our huge life change back in 2013 (three states/two moves/most of our stuff still in storage) had been the boxing away of the Heroscape armies... which was finally solved by three rolling carts .
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • When designing boards, remember that "it looks cool" and "it plays well" can be totally different things.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • If you get a chance, find someone and play this. (Alternately, watch garage sales & the BGG Marketplace and start your own collection!)