Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Best Games of 2014

Every year I keep track of the "New to Me" games for the year and then make the Top 10 List of the year. So here is that list. I think this might be my favorite blog to write each year. I played 71 new to me games this year, so all these games I'm going to list are good games and it is usually tough to narrow it down to just 10. I actually rate all of these games 8/10, so the difference between number 1 and number 10 is really small. Honorable mentions include: Copy Cat, King of New York, Caverna, Gonzaga, Nothing Personal, Rampage, Snow Tails, Five Tribes, BraveRats, and Voluspa. Thanks to everyone who has played games with me all year!

10. Diamonds
I like trick taking games. Diamonds is exactly that. What is so great about it though is that every hand is a good hand. It is all just how you play it. Each time you win a trick, you get a special action, however you get a special action each time you throw off too. So throw off or win the trick, but be sure to protect your diamonds. This has been really successful game with family and friends (even my mom liked it and she isn't a huge fan of the games I bring). I'd love to do a trick taking game day and pull this out with The Bottle Imp, Tichu, Haggis, Clubs, and Euchre.

9. The Castles of Mad King Ludwig
This is was a tough call for me to put on the list. I only played it once, in the dealer hall at GenCon, where it was loud and tight, but I liked it a lot. Players are building castles for the king. Simple boring theme.  I love the free form building of the castles, the I cut you choose of the master builder, and the room combinations that can occur. It seemed different enough from Suburbia that I think if I'd played this more it would be higher on my list, but with just the one play will remain at number 9.

8. 1775: Rebellion
An American Revolution game for 2 or 4 players. The board is amazingly awesome in this game. There are four groups of armies that have unique dice. The theme oozed out of the game. My one experience with the game actually was a poor one due to another player, but depsite that the game really really shined. This is one I've picked up several times to buy, but just haven't yet, but it is on my wish list for a future purchase.

7. Felix, Cat in the Sack
This one really surprised me. It is an auction game where you start bidding on a small amount of information and as more people drop out more information becomes available. It can be pretty punishing, but it is really fun. It also brought about the only time this year in gaming that I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.

6. Arctic Scavengers
A math trade acquisition I've been very happy with. The year is 2097 and a new ice age has destroyed 99% of the worlds population. You are scavenging the left overs, building your deck in order to add members to your tribe, fight against other tribes, and win the game. This is a unique deckbuilder, that when played with the expansions included in the box, really gives you a different feel than say Dominion or Ascension. The theme is really cool as well. The instert in the box though is possible the worst one ever.

5. The Battle of Five Armies
The prequel to my favorite game of all time, very difficult for it not to make this list. It is tough to know where this will actually end up though, since it is very similar in thought to War of the Ring. However, I'm looking forward to many more plays of this one. The very unique damage mechanism really makes the game shine. All the various player powers, fast moving units, in general I'm very happy with this game and glad it is in my collection. It seems more wide open than War of the Ring, though that also makes it less large scale, just like the Hobbit.

4. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
I've always loved Werewolf (or Mafia as I've always called it), but I've realized there are some problems with player elimination and sitting around while a 20 person game concludes. One Night fixes that! You get enough information to make logical arguments and excuses, you vote to lynch someone, then you find out who one. Really fun and really quick. I'll still play Mafia on long bus rides, but this is a great filler game in the vein of the Resistance.

3. Heroes Wanted
Players are crazy super heroes trying to get a spot on a second rate Justice League or Avengers type team. I really enjoy this game for its tactical card play, the fun combos of heroes and villians and the light hearted theme. As you play, you try to make the best move for that turn, but set yourself up for future turns to take advantage of where the villian will be or maybe give a cheap shot to another hero. The scenarios are great as well. Who doesn't like preventing bootleg DVD production? I do not like the quirks in the game, but simply don't play with them.

2. Sheriff of Nottingham
As soon as I read the description of this game I knew I'd like it. I bought it and I did really like it. Basically it is a bluffing game where you try to convince the sheriff not to look in your bag of goods and thus make the most money. It makes for some really fun situations where you try to read your opponents or bait your opponents. A great game for all kinds of people.

1. A Study in Emerald
This game is expensive. It was nearly $100 with shipping when it was Kickstarted and so I didn't back it. Now people on Amazon are trying to sell it for $260. However, a friend of mine owns it and I was able to play it twice this year and loved it! The board is beautiful, the game play isn't just like any other game ever. The deckbuilding is a large part of the game, but in no ways all of the game. I love how when you attempt to collect a card you have to have the most influence on it at the start of your turn, which means you always have to wait a full turn to collect a card for your deck. Players are on teams (randomly determined and secret) either fighting to destroy monsters (think HP Lovecraft) that have ruled the world for hundreds of years or fighting to keep those monsters in power. The best part of the game is the winning conditions. There is only one winner, however if a player that is on your team finishes in last place, then your whole team loses, and so you cannot win. That adds some great tension to the game. I know this one isn't for everyone, but for me it hit all the right spots.

Dust Award: The worst game of the year for me goes to CV. I really wanted to like this game. I love the life theme, after all I'm in human resources and think CVs or resumes is a good thing, since they essentially are my job. This game was horrible though. Somehow they figured out how to shove 20 minutes of fun into 2 hours. They made a role and move game without dice. This game was just not good at all and to make it worst I had such high hopes for it. Blah!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Every 100 Games Series - The Legend of Landlock

My 5,700th game played was one with my oldest daughter who is 5 years old. We pulled out The Legend of Landlock, a game that was given to us by a friend whose kids had out grown it. So read on to see how this game stacks up from my point of view and from a kids point of view.

Game Play
This is said to be a 2-4 player game, but it really is just a two player tile laying game where players are creating a grid. On the tiles are roads and rivers. One player is playing as water and one player as land, trying to make long routs, form islands, and generally manipulate their land type on the map. After the whole grid is complete, players score points based upon how long and many their particular terrain type is and a winner is declared. The game we played took about 15 minutes to play.

The components are there. The game was originally made in 1988 and you can tell a bit. The art is unassuming, the tiles while they work aren't exactly the thick quality you'd find in Carcassonne or Forbidden Island. However, there isn't anything wrong with them either. There are not any other components in the game.

Strategy & Tactics
There is actually quite a bit of strategy and tactics in this game. More than I expected. Drawing a single tile a turn though can limit how much you plan, but not any more than other tile laying games. This is a very abstract game of push and shove, setting up what you need to happen and preventing your opponent from doing exactly what they want.

I was pleasantly surprised by this game. I think it is a game that for the most part the best player will win everytime and feels more like a classic game of Othello or Checkers rather than a small kids game as it is packaged. However, kids can enjoy the game, all the tiles match up and so make for easy placement. My daughter enjoyed our play of it, but has yet to ask for it again. So I guess this one was a solid game for me, just not one that has been overwhelming us. There are other kids games that we prefer and also other abstract games that we prefer.

Carcassonne Players - This isn't as fun as Carc. It is a bit shorter and only two player. It is much more simpler though, so perhaps a good gateway for a kid into Carcassonne.

Non-Parents - If you don't have any kids, I don't think I'd get this game. There are many better abstract 2 player games out there to enjoy before this one.

Kids Who Love Theme - This is also a non-recommendation for me. For instance Candyland, as horrible as it is, is much more thematic of a game. The Evening in the Stable another simple roll and move type game is much more thematic. If you kid isn't playing to play a game, but is instead playing to enjoy a story, then Landlock isn't the game for him or her.

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews. All images are from BGG and if you follow their URL you can find them there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Every 100 Games Series - Felix: The Cat in the Sack

Felix: The Cat in the Sack was my 5,600th game played. I got it in a math trade earlier this year and have played it at least 10 times since then many times with my family. This is what I think about this small card game.

Game Play
Felix is a simple auction game that can be quite punishing. Players place down cats, dogs, and rabbits to bid "mice" on. The trick is that at the beginning of the auction only one of these animals (and their corresponding point value) are face up. As players drop from the auction they get paid money by the bank, with more money being paid the longer you stay in, with the last player then paying the bank their final bid for the whole lot. Some of the animals are worth positive points, others are negative, and others discard the positive and negative point ones. The person who has the most points from auctions they've won plus leftover money wins the game after 8 rounds!

There aren't a whole lot of components to this game. 45 tarot sized cards with different colored backs and 9 unique pieces of art on the front of cute and cuddly cats, dogs, and a pink rabbit. Then for the mice (money) they give you green and black plastic discs which are horrible. I always use my poker chips if not travelling with the game. Then finally a chunky wooden sack to indicate who is the first player each round. There really isn't a whole lot to the game when it comes to components, but the cards are nice and big and the art is really cute and light as it should be.

Strategy & Tactics
This game rewards bluffing and knowing your opponents willingness to bid high. You've got to be extremely careful not to get stuck and bid all your money in an early round, thus forcing you to drop out of the auction. Realizing when to play your big positive and negative cards, especially when you are further down in the auction and so can lead players on, is key to the game.

I really like this game. It is right up there with other filler level games that have some fun mechanics that make them extra special. I've been able to play it with my 8 year old niece and it has been a hit at family gatherings and also has gone over well with gamers. I've laughed until I've cried playing this game on those occasions where someone has just been absolutely screwed by overbidding and getting a slew of negative cards (I've been on the receiving end of that too). Felix will be in my collection for a long time for sure!

Filler Lovers - Get this game. If you are a fan of High Society, No Thanks, For Sale, Money, and other such fillers then you'll love this game.

Auction Haters - Move on. This is an auction game and one that might make you hate auctions even more, since you are bidding most of the time on blind information.

Grinches - If you can't laugh at your plight, then you won't like this one. However, if you enjoy laughing at your plight, realizing it'll be over in 20 minutes, then this one will be for you. Sometimes you just get burned in this game and sometimes you don't. It is light fun, so feel free to laugh it off.

Cat Lovers - Just for the art, you should get this game and stare lovingly at the cuddle critters.

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews. All images are from BGG and if you follow their URL you can find them there.

Monday, December 15, 2014

10 Years of the 13th Tribe!

You ever started something and then kept going at it and before you know what happened a lot of time had passed by without you realizing it? You know like have a kid, read a book, get engrossed in a game of Civilization 2, or just let Netflix auto-play a TV series? I’ve done all those, but in January I’ll also have hosted our board game group, the 13th Tribe, for 10 years! This means I want to tell you about it. (Even though I already have before)

Yeah, we even allowed Monopoly (2005) and still would if enough people wanted to play it.
My senior year of college I moved into an apartment with a fellow named Ed O’Connor. We discovered that we both liked Axis & Allies a lot, so I purchased it on eBay, and we began playing it and a few other games on occasion with our neighbor Derrick Sindt, before long we decided to start meeting on a regular basis and officially form a group which we called the 13th Tribe in reference to the 12 Tribes of Israel since we were all attending the same Christian college. We met twice a month, first at our apartment, then once Krista and I got married at our apartment, then we began meeting at Smokey Row coffee house.Then in January of 2007 Krista and I moved to Indiana and started a second branch in our Carmel apartment. The Iowa branch of the group eventually died out as more and more people graduated and/or moved away from Oskaloosa, but our Indiana group has thrived! We have over 80 people on our monthly invitation list, play for 10 hours every month, and generally have a great time with each other.

Some of the regulars in 2007.
Now for some crazy numbers over the past 10 years to show you I’m a real geek. We’ve always handed out a Gamer of the Year award at the end of each year and we keep track of what games we play and post on boardgamegeek.com to discuss them. In the past 10 years, at least 211 people that have played at least one game at a 13th Tribe game day. Between us we’ve played 375 unique games a total of 1526 times (and that is just since 2007 when I started keeping track). That is a lot of games with a lot of friends!

Derrick, Renee, and Erik who started buying their own games while we were in Iowa.
Hosting the 13th Tribe has been very rewarding. We (Krista and I) have been able to make friends with people from all walks of life that we wouldn’t have ever come into contact with otherwise. Using the group as an excuse, Krista and I have been able to become better friends with folks that we otherwise might have just been passing acquaintances and instead we have dinner with and do other activities with outside gaming. We’ve been able to hang out with my dad and my two youngest sisters more because of the group. My kids have come to enjoy game day and they don’t even play games with us,  but they know it is a fun day when some of their friends come over too! Hopefully, we’ve made a positive impact in the lives of the gamers we interact with, because ultimately this is a life thing and not a game thing.

Many of the folks met online and now are great fiends.
So to wrap this up, I want to thank all the people that have made this a great 10 years. We’ve had
weekend long events, helped with IndyCon, see each other at GenCon, and have been entertained for
many hours. Even though the group is about board games, by that definition it is about people, since the point of board games is to sit face to face with others and enjoy your time together. I hope you all have had a great time and look forward to another 10 years of gaming with such a great group!

We have 2nd generation gamers now!
P.S. If you are reading this and would like to join us, we occasionally have someone move or drop out, so we can always put you on the list or you can check out our website.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Puking Empathy

Puking empathy! Sort of a gross title huh? However, on Thanksgiving this year I was puking and I was finally empathetic. You see all my kids the last few days have been sick and have been throwing up. I felt sorry for them, I helped take care of them, I rubbed their back and cuddled with them, and made them meals. My wife did all this and more for them.

Then 1am on Thanksgiving morning I threw up, I would then proceed to do so 7 more times through the morning. It was horrible. Gross, painful, nauseating, whatever adjective you want to use to describe it. It made me empathetic though. I knew I was experiencing exactly what they had experienced and really truly understood what they went through. It made me feel even more sorry for them and hurt for them, because I don't want my little girls to have to go through such distress and pain and hopelessness feeling. It made me wish I could go back and be sick for them in addition to my own sickness. It then made me understand Christ's love for me even more.

Jesus has that empathy for us (which means me too!). That is the necessity of the cross. That is why he is He. It wouldn't do any good you see for a  man who was partly God to sacrifice himself. It had to be 100% God and 100% man for him to truly empathize with us and thus know us for who we are. Understand the pain, Know the temptation. Truly empathize with us.

So on Thanksgiving I found that I was thankful for good health most of the time and a God who became a man to empathize with me.

I leave this with you from Philippians 2:5-8:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very naturea God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureb of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Indy Netrunner League

I recently finished running my first Netrunner league and thought I’d share about the experience. This is essentially a session report that covers 12 weeks. We have a pretty solid group of players here in Indianapolis playing at Game Time on the Northeast Side. We’ve had 3 leagues previously, before I volunteered to run the latest one. Personally, I had a great time playing in it. These LCGs are best when playing in a group of people who also take them seriously enough to build decks and when that group is big enough you don’t have to play the same 2 people over and over. Our league achieved this!

The Organization
Place & Time
We try to be consistent in our playing. That is the first and most important thing. So we play every other Monday night from 5pm – until the store kicks us out around 10 or 11. That is right, I said 10 or 11. Game Time, the store we play in, allows us to stay that late. With a variety of players, many of whom have families, having the 6 hour flexibility very important. It makes it more worth it for someone to drive a decent distance to know they can play for 5 hours.

Cost & Prizes
Your first visit to the league is free. We want new players and are always willing to teach folks. If you decide you like it after that, then it is a $10 charge for the whole league. This last league we gave out 3 season kits, 3 data packs, and a core set. The top players on the achievement side split 1 game night kit, the top players on the competitive split two of them, and then we had a couple random prizes for htose who didn’t finish in the top in either of those divisions. Also, there is always bragging rights.

Achievements & Competitive Divisions
We broke the league down into two different divisions, which players could attempt to win one, the other, or both. Our achievements division had 30+ achievements possible as both corp and runner. The idea behind them was to make them a side game, essentially not doing what you would normally do and thus jeopardizing your victory by attempting the achievement. The Competitive Division was just that. Whoever won the most games over the league won the division. You can only play another player in 3 matches (Corp & Runner) throughout the league. Get the most wins, get the victory. I created some simple sheets for players to keep track of who they played for the evening, the results, and any achievements that occurred.

The Results
You can see the Excel Sheet for our League here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5yz9k4zdjn0qhti/Netrunner%20League.xlsx?dl=0.

Overall, I think the league went pretty well. We had 19 people participate over the course of it. This league lasted 6 nights (which is 12 weeks). We had two guys charge at the achievements really hard, one of which got all of them by week 4 I believe. I’m not sure our eventual Competitive Division winner ever played different IDs than Noise/PE. Since people we keeping track of their wins/losses, I asked them to write down their ID as well, which led to some interesting stats. It seemed each week we always had at least 10 people show up, rarely fell below 8 people playing at once, but rarely got over 14 people playing at once either. Everyone seems to be very accommodating and until the last night itdoesn’t feel nearly as competitive as regular tourneys. In general Netrunner tourneys aren’t overly cutthroat in my experience anyways, so I think it has fit well. A shout out to Karl for dominating the achievements division and to Travis for getting the win in the competitive division!

Going Forward

First off, scoring for the competitive division can be wonky. With the league only meeting 6 weeks, even if you only miss one or two of those weeks, you won’t have a shot to win. Though not across the board, in general, the more games you play the better chance you have at winning the league. I’m considering doing an ELO rating for next league or a winning percentage with a minimum number of games/weeks played. The ELO sounds the best to me, but at the same time, would be much more work on my end. I wish FFG had a tourney/league system!

Second, the achievements are a tough thing. I really liked having each ID as an achievement, that led for a lot of variety while people were attempting achievements, but then many people just stopped trying to get achievements at all. It is a lot of work building 6 new decks a week. I think I played Quetzal 6 times during the league other than that I didn’t play the same deck twice. So perhaps a weekly achievement model will work, just so long as it is planned out.

Third, the length of the league. Meeting 6 times seemed long, because we only meet every other week. Going to weekly I think would dilute our player pull too much, so I’m considering dropping it to 5 weeks, which is 10 weeks in real life. This would bring about faster conclusions and then we can have a tournament that last week, perhaps seeded based on the league.

So there you go, our latest league and how it went. I’d love to hear suggestions or comments from others out there that have played in a league, run a league, our would like to play/run in a league.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

10 Most Influential Books

I've seen people challenging other people on Facebook to list the 10 most influential books in their life, but nobody has challenged me! Seemed like a good subject though, so I thought I'd write about it. So here you go, listed by number, but for the most part not really in any particular order. All the years are the completion year.

1. The Bible by God - circa 90
Of course this is the most influential book in my life, being as I'm a Christian. This is Holy Scripture where God Himself speaks to us. I know this is an obvious choice, but I didn't want to just say it didn't count in this list, because it counts more than any other.

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - 1952
Though I don't agree with some of Lewis' conclusions, because I don't think they are backed up in the first book on my list here, I think this book is one of the most logical and practical books on human worldview in existence that is easily read by a layman like me. I like it for its simple and practical approach to some of life's most complex and large questions.

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - 1955
This entry includes all three books from the trilogy and I'll also throw in the Hobbit as well. If you have read my blog over the last few years, you knew this would be on here. It is an epic in every sense of the word and describes such a vast and detailed land that once I start reading I'm only thinking Middle-earth and the realness that it is. My basement is LotR, my favorite board game is LotR, I plan midnight showing LotR parties, this is influential.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - 1956
I remember being scared the first time my mom tried to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to me. The stories are fun, exciting, scary, and yet still personal and real as the children in each of the books encounter very real and very important life choices and learn how to view their own world through Narnia's lens. I experienced this and learned it right along with them.

5. The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter - 1810
This is the book that got me looking for other books that were illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. It began my infatuation with historical fiction, which continues today, and it showed me how villainous a character in a book could be. I remember always thinking that Wallace shouldn't do the right thing, but the smart thing, but he was always the chivalrous and perfect knight. I know that this is such a romanticized version of Wallace's story that perhaps it is too far, but in the same way that Braveheart made him a barbarian warrior and I loved it, I like this for making him the gallant knight.

6. Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle - 1927
This includes all the short stories, novels, etc. My grandma bought me a collection of stories in a large hardcover book from Half Price Books for my 12th birthday in 1995 and I've read them all many times since. Holmes' personal imperfection, yet professional vigor and ability has always intrigued me. I have always found reading in a narration form (for the most part) by Dr. Watson as a style that put me in Watson's shoes and being flabbergasted by Holmes' apparent wizardry.

7. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas - 1845
The ultimate tale of revenge. As you read this book, it just gives you the feeling of hopelessness and hate and desire. I think it really began my enjoyment of the down-on-their-luck protagonists that somehow make something of themselves. A classic that you should seek out and enjoy reading, though very tough for me to decide which book took this slot. I could've easily chosen Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Last of the Mohicans, A Christmas Carol, Kidnapped!, or many other classic novels of the 19th century.

8. The Iron Marshall by Louis L'Amour - 1979
This book is influential, because I'm pretty sure it was the first L'Amour book I ever read. I read it at my uncle & aunt's house in Minnesota and now own about 110 L'Amour books. So that is why it is on this list, though my favorite of his books are The Walking Drum, The Haunted Mesa, and The First Fast Draw. L'Amour writes simple, fun, and historically accurate Westerns and frontier stories that I love reading and will continue to love reading.

9. The Tower Adventure by Franklin Dixon - 1927
Again, not so much this individual book, but the Hardy Boys in general. I read them all as a kid, and Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden (Yeah, I know, pretty girly, but I didn't care!). Young kids solving mysteries was my thing! I remember being very disappointed and feeling deceived when I learned that Franklin Dixon wasn't a real person and these were just collections of authors.

10. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel - 1998
Strobel lays it out in very logical and matter of fact way. I remember reading this first in high school, then again in college, then again after college. I like how he just talks about his journey and each little hiccup that he had with Christianity. I've given this book to friends a couple times and it is one that I'm sure I'll continue to go back to on a regular basis.

So there you have it. My 10 most influential books. Thanks for tagging me and having me write about them. Oh yeah, you didn't, so I just did.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Living Life Together

This week marked the 5th year anniversary of our community group meeting for the first time. Our community group is comprised of 10 adults and 13 kids from Faith Church. We try and meet every other week together to discuss our faith in Jesus, our trails of life, pray together, and in general intentionally live life together for Christ.

This past weekend we went on a retreat to a lake house in Northern Indiana (sadly one of the families couldn’t make it) and had just an absolutely great time. I’m the only fisherman in the group, so I got up earlier both mornings and went out on the lake to catch some bass, which though it means I’m really tired at night (also angry one night after fishing for 30 minutes because I lost a HUGE ONE, but I don’t want to talk about it). We all then had breakfast together, with kids spread between two tables and adults just sitting around on couches or standing and discussing the day. Then throughout the day we would boat together, tubing and skiing (and attempting to ski), wrangling lunch and supper, disciplining and playing with the kids, then finally getting all the kids in bed. The adults then stayed up late, playing games, discussing life, heaven, and Jesus,  and answering questions like what brought our group together, and finally when everyone is so tired their blurring their words going to bed (Which isn’t late as you think, because all those kids can really wear someone out!).

Living Life Together is what we call our group and that is what we really try to do, because we truly believe that in order for us to grow in Christ and we must also grow together. I hear far too often from Christians that they don’t need to be in church, that they can love God on their own, because after all it is a personal relationship. That is contrary to what scripture says and also practically just not good. My family and my walk with Christ have been strengthened from living in community with fellow believers. He has used them to encourage us during trials, help us move & watch our kids, sharpen our beliefs, and fill our lives with laughter. Our kids get their lives invested in by other adults and they get to see how those adults also live and follow after Christ. In return, we get to encourage, help, and invest right back into the other families’ lives as well.

This post started out as a “let me tell you about my weekend” post, but I guess I’ll end it as a challenge and encouragement to those Christians reading this. Get involved in a local group of believers! Don’t just walk in the door Sunday morning at 11am and rush out as soon as the sermon is over at noon. Be intentional, find where you can fit in, and live in community with other believers. Yes we are not perfect and yes there are just as many hypocrites in the church as there are at the local country club, but we aren’t called to live our lives on our own!

If you won't take my word for it, here are some verses to read and consider: 

Hebrews 10:25 - Don't forsake meeting together.
Romans 12:5 - We are one body.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 - We're all one body and have a purpose.
Ephesians 5 - Reminds us that Christ is the head of the Church.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lawrence Invitational Badminton Tourney

When it comes to pure fun and relaxation, Labor Day is my favorite official holiday of the year. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that Gen Con is the best holiday of the year, but for some reason the Federal government won’t recognize it, which makes Labor Day the winner. Anyways, why Labor Day you ask? Well, let me tell you…

The legend begins way back in the dark ages of 1988 (I was 5 years old) when my Uncle Jim & Aunt Theresa hosted a Labor Day party.  They were sitting around eating & drinking, thinking about something to do, and decided to get a badminton set out and play a tournament. They made a trophy consisting of two beer cans screwed to the top of a 2x4 about 8 inches long and gave it to the inaugural winners my Uncles Jim & Tony. Everyone had such a fun time that they decided to do it again next year and the year after and it has been continuing ever since.

Picture of Original Trophy

The trophy itself has grown and changed over the years. Originally the charge of the champions was to improve the trophy ever year and bring it back for the next champions. The original trophy gained a banner, a second level, some birdies, and was quite a sight. Predicting that eventually my younger brother would win the trophy as a 12 year old, Jim knew my mom wouldn’t like beer cans in his room, so Tony went dumpster diving behind a trophy shop and put together a 3 foot tall Frankenstein monster of a trophy in the mid-90s, which continues to travel today.  Here is a picture of it in its current state. It had to be taken to a trophy shop for repair in 2014 as all the travelling had caused snapping of the flags and breaking of the posts.

Trophy as it is now.

The Lawrence Invitational Badminton tournament in 2014 marked the 27th time that Lawrence family members and friends converged on court. There are usually between 8 and 16 teams that play in the double-elimination tournament. There are two courts set up for play and players ranging from ages 8 years old to late 50s. I’ve now played in 17 different tournaments, my first one was 20 years ago, missing three years while in college. My first year I played with my aunt’s brother, then a couple years with my cousin Scott, then in 1998 began playing with my best friend Ryan. We’ve been playing together ever since. In our 14 years playing together we’ve made it to the championship every time, losing twice, the most humiliating loss coming to my brother and my cousin Scott (yes, my former partner and yes they beat us twice in a row from the losers bracket). Ryan and I have yelled at each other, hit each other with a racket (sometimes it is necessary to give your body to the game), come back from the loser bracket, played in the mud & rain, sweated and bled for the game, and generally took a whole lot of heckling from the Mark & Mark team.

Ryan & I in 2008. I couldn't find earlier pictures though I know they exist.

I think the reason that Labor Day is so fun for me is the competition. I love competition and tournaments. Basketball tournaments, Netrunner tournaments, badminton tournaments, rock/paper/scissors tournaments, it doesn’t matter. Just give me a tournament. This one is fun for all the trash talking that goes on throughout the year and during the day. The jokes cracked at everyone’s expense, the rooting for the underdog , watching a good volley while enjoying a burger and snacking on the ridiculous amount of dessert that is always there, and ending the summer in the camaraderie of competition and food. It is awesome that my aunt and uncle still host this, though they’ve stopped playing in the tournament quite a while ago, yet are now watching the 3rd generation of players beginning to pick up the rackets and smack the birds.

Ryan & I in 2014

So never plan on me attending your Labor Day cookout or going camping over that weekend or taking a trip to see a natural wonder, because it ain’t gonna happen. I’m playing badminton.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Every 100 Games Series - Heroes Wanted

In the past week or so I've attempted to stop littering, bust bootleg DVDs, and keep all the crazies in the asylum of Zeta City. One of those plays of Heroes Wanted was my 5,500th game played and so my 55th review in this series of reviews.

Game Play
In Heroes Wanted players take on their alter-ego roles of such as Captain Rocket or DJ Volcano and attempt to gain the most fame in four different scenarios. The hero that gets the most fame then gets to join the Zeta City Super Hero Team (think Avengers, just more awkward). Players do this by first choosing their hero, which has top half and a bottom half, and will be unique every game. Then a villain is chosen in a similar way to the heroes, so it'll be unique all the time and you'll end up with villains like Baron Von Skunk or Big Bad Beast terrorizing Zeta City. Then you choose your scenario, set it up, and play the game.

Each hero gets 7 cards, with one they can get later on, and each turn they either play a card or rest. If they rest, then they get to pick up all the cards they have played in the previous turns (think Mission Red Planet). Those cards allow the heroes to move around, attack the villain, henchmen, or underlings, maybe even attack other heroes and use your super power to reach the goals of the scenario. Once all heroes have taken their turn the villain attacks, heroes take damage or prevent it by playing more of their cards, and the next round begins.

The action card backs are upside down, but I probably wouldn't have noticed if I didn't know that going in. Other than that this game looks fantastic. The art is perfect for bringing out the light and crazy super hero theme. The cards are excellent quality and I really like the board design that explains the scenario in a newspaper format, but at the same time is useful for actually playing the game. The henchmen and underlings are all unique wood shaped pieces. If I had a complaint at all it would be the extremely small threat marker (I replaced mine with a black wooden train). I also like that they fit a ton of stuff (it weighs a lot) in a box smaller than the normal "Ticket to Ride" sized box one usually expects with this level of game.

Strategy & Tactics
There can be strategy in this game, because for the most part the villain moves in a pre-determined format, but overall I think it is more of a tactical game. Assess the board, make your move, knock out a henchman, damage the hero, whatever you can do and try to set yourself up for the next turn. There are headlines in the game (essentially goals) in which not only do you get more points than your opponent if you complete them first, but it also gives you another bonus off your hero card. Timing when you get these headlines and thus the extra bonuses can be extremely important and strategic part of the game.

I'm really loving this game so far. I've yet to play with the quirks, which are basically funny roles the heroes must play, turning the game into an even lighter fare. I want to play with these sometime soon, but have yet to do so. As for the rest of the game, it is my favorite super hero game that I've played. I like the tactical play of it and love that I'm a different and odd hero fighting a different and odd villain. I'm also impressed with going the scenario route, instead of a the same city map over and over, it makes the game even more unique. Heroes Wanted is a game that I'm glad I wanted enough to kickstart and now own.

Super Spouse Gamers - This is one to pull out if your spouse is a super gamer. The best part about it is that you can avoid the player vs player attacking that in the game and just play it as a more competitive co-op.

Comic Book Fans - Personally I think this is the best super hero game available right now. I'm not into co-ops like Sentinels of the Multiverse. Legendary is a good game, but not really one that jumps out with the theme, then there is DC Deckbuilder which is a joke as far as the super hero theme goes.

Villain of Strategery - I can see serious strategy gamers being a bit turned off by this one. One of the types of heroes roles dice for their super power, the quirks could really bother such a person (which is one reason I haven't used them quite yet), and the PVP can throw wrenches in your plans.

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews. All images are from BGG and if you follow their URL you can find them there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Every 100 Games - Saint Petersburg

My 5,400th play was Saint Petersburg, which is a game that I've played several times over the past 6 or 7 years. I recently was given a copy as a gift (thanks Aristides!) and so played one of the "Best of Three" series my wife and I play on occasion. Here is the review of this older game that is coming back into print soon.

Game Play
Players are trying to score victory points by hiring workers, building buildings, and recruiting aristocrats to their side. I make it sound really cool, but basically it is a Euro game where you are managing your money to get cards to get money and points each turn. There are four phases each turn in which workers, buildings, and aristocrats all activate on their appropriate phase giving you their money or points. The fourth phase has upgrade cards, which upgrade the three types of cards, but that phase doesn't activate their abilities. Once a single type of card runs out, the game ends at the end of the turn, and the person with the most points wins. The end game scoring is the aristocrats, which the more unique ones you have, the more points you get.

The box art and the card art is very Renaissance Russia. However, the board is really plain and pretty much not needed. This is a card game. The score track doesn't leave a lot of room for multiple pieces on the same space. Mostly this is a really plain game that if made today, probably would have a bit more flare.

Strategy & Tactics
You have to get some workers early to have a chance. The rule book even says get two workers on your first two rounds, so as not to fall behind. Then as you are purchasing workers and buildings you have to try and make the right tactical choices each round, depending on what you think your opponents might do, in order to save the most money and get even further in the game. Setting yourself up to get unique aristocrats by making sure you get a chance to buy one each round is important as well.

This game really falls short for me. I've tried it and tried it, but it just doesn't do it. You can make a single mistake in the first 3 turns and be out of the game. It snowballs so much that the single mistake is a huge disparity at the end. What makes it worse, in my opinion, is that sometimes you can get behind in this snowball game from no decision of your own. Rather just pure luck. If the start player gets a chance for a couple really cheap workers and you have to pay extra money for yours you are in trouble. It is even worse if they get an observatory on their first turn, thus getting another worker, and 50% more income than you going into the next turn. This game is just not one for me, though I'll keep it in my collection for those that do really like it in my group.

Dour-Faced Old Men - This is the game for you. You'll look especially dour playing this one.

New to the Hobby Gamers - New gamers to the hobby tend to try and go back and play the classics. Overall, I think many people would say this one is a classic, but I will suggest there are many other classic games to try instead of this one.

History Hipsters - Nope, this isn't for you either. It is too old, it is popular, and really it doesn't teach you a whole lot of history.

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews. All images are from BGG and if you follow their URL you can find them there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Every 100 Games Series - 7 Wonders

I'm finally caught up with my reviews! My 5,300th game played was 7 Wonders on a Sunday afternoon with my buddy Ryan from Minnesota and my wonderful wife. I was surprised, I had not reviewed this game yet since it currently is my 4th most played game ever with 83 plays. So here is the review of a game that I've played many times, so you know that I know it in and out.

Game Play
In 7 Wonders 2-7 players, are controlling ancient civilizations building up their science, military, commerce, and industry, not to mention their specific ancient wonder like the Pyramids or the Colossus! It is a drafting game, simply meaning you get a group of cards, choose one, then pass the rest to your neighbor. It is all done simultaneously, so nobody has their own turn.This is done over three ages and the the scores are added up for the winner. You have to balance getting resources, in order to build better buildings in the future, with money to buy resources from your neighbors, with just working on your wonder to right your name in history! Usually games take about 30 minutes, with any number of players.

The art in this game is what drew me in. I think it is absolutely great. It shows temples, market places, fortresses, and all the other ancient world buildings you would expect to see in glorious and detail color drawings. There are a ton of large Tarot sized cards, 7 wonder boards showing the wonders of the ancient world, and tokes for money and military points. The iconography makes sense for the most part, though it can be a bit overwhelming for a new player.

Strategy & Tactics
Without expansions, the game can be very much a tactical experience. You do need to take into account what you'd  like to do in the future and what your opponents are doing in order to at least consider taking a card that they want. However, the more of a specific type of card you get, the more likely you will get more of that type of card, since some cards allow you to build the next age's card for free. The game does seemed balanced, but like any other game, if you allow your opponent to do something unfettered, then you will probably lose.

I love 7 Wonders. Without a doubt one of the greatest games of all time in my opinion. I remember playing it for the first time at GenCon on a prototype version and immediately trying to purchase it from them there, even though none were for sale. What really makes it shine is that 7 players can play it, it is a deep filler game, and it only takes 30 minutes to play even with that many players. They are going to do 7 expansions for it (at least that is what I've heard) so there will be plenty of variability if you want it. Though I've only bought the Leaders expansion and am happy with just it.

Family Gamers - Surprisingly to me, this is not a great family game, unless your family are gamers. I've played it a few times with my family and icon confusion ensued. It became more of a stressful game than a fun game at that point.

Civ Games Fans - I think this is a try before you buy. In my mind most people looking for a civ game want a deeper game than this, but if you are looking for a civ themed game, then for sure pick this up, because the art really gives it that feel.

People Who Don't Like Confrontation - This game is perfect for you. There is some military in it, but you don't get to choose who you fight and it isn't that personal. So let your war mongering husband (which often is me) build that huge military. He can't wipe you out anyways.

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews. All images are from BGG and if you follow their URL you can find them there.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Every 100 Games Series - One Night Ultimate Werewolf

During Geekway to the West, I played this game 12 different times. One of those times was my 5,200th played game. One Night Ultimate Werewolf was the go to filler for me during that convention, since so many people already know the basic premise of the game and we could get it going quickly.

Game Play
Well, if you've ever played Werewolf/Mafia, then you know the basic premise of this game. There are hidden roles such as werewolves, seer, villagers, masons, town drunk, and other roles that are dealt out to all the players secretly. There are also three roles that are put in the center that nobody knows about. Then everyone closes their eyes, werewolves open their eyes to see who the other werewolves are, other roles do various things such as switch with another player, look at other player roles, open their eyes to see who is on their team, etc. Once all the special abilities have been taken, the game begins. Basically everyone talks and vote simultaneously for the person they think is a werewolf. Whoever gets the most votes is lynched and the game is over. If a werewolf dies the villager team wins. If a villager dies, the werewolf team wins. That is it. Usually takes about 10-15 minutes and doesn't even need a moderator like the regular version of Werewolf!

There isn't a whole lot to this game. Just some rules and role cards with cute art on them. They are more like tiles than cards, which if it is anything like my copy of Avalon, will see a lot of wear. Perhaps regular sized cards that could be sleeved would've been better. However, the game only costs like $12, so just buy another copy if it gets too worn out.

Strategy & Tactics
You got to be a good liar or be able to read other people. The same things that apply in regular Werewolf apply in this game. You try to catch people in a lie, try to see where they slipped up in telling their story. Perhaps it is you who takes a chance and says you are the Seer, hoping against hopes that the Seer is one of the 3 cards in the middle and nobody else can refute you. The game is all about the slow con or the fast one.

I loved this game for several reasons. It is very fast. It doesn't require a moderator, which though fun, can be a big downside in regular Werewolf. There are enough variety in the roles to give each game a different and fun feel. There is no player elimination, which can be a huge downside in regular Werewolf. To wrap it up, this game is absolutely great and for the price, I don't think you can go wrong, unless you absolutely hate hidden role games.

Resistance Owners - This is me. So this recommendation is to me as well as others. Buy the game. Sometimes people get tired of playing the same lying, hidden role game out there. This one gives you options.

Regular Werewolf/Mafia Players - I'd say get this as well. It might not be the same as Werewolf, but if you only have 8 players, I think this is a better choice. Even if you have 10 players, I still think it is a better choice, simply because of player elimination. I'm not sure I'll ever play a regular version of Werewolf again.

Honest Abe Gamers - Don't bother. Still lots of lying in this one. So if you don't like doing that or just are really poor at it, then you might skip this one. Sometimes it is a good thing to be a good liar or maybe it is a good thing that you are a bad liar?

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews. All images are from BGG and if you follow their URL you can find them there.