Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bottom of the 9th (Greater Than Games)

Baseball season is underway, so I thought today would be a perfect time to share with you a review of Bottom of the 9thBottom of the 9th is a 2 player dice and card game for ages 13 and up. It plays anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes and retails for $20. In the game, it is the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied. The home team has a chance to win it all, but they must battle the best closing pitcher in the league. One player controls the Batter and the other player controls the Pitcher.
1. Place the Field (game board) between the two players with home plate pointing toward the batter.
2. The Batter then selects six batter cards to form his team and arranges them in the order of his choice to form a line up. (You can tell which cards are batters by the icon on the bottom left of the back of the card.) The Batter must pick six different positions (meaning they can't have two catchers).
3. The Batter also receives, the 'At-Bat' Stick of Gum (used to track pitch count), 5 Pitch Count Tokens (3 white for balls and 2 red for strikes), 4 Base Runner Meeples, 2 Pitch Tokens (1 red and 1 white), and the Swing Die (red).
4. The Pitcher picks two pitcher cards (one serves as a substitute if needed in the game).
5. The Pitcher also receives, 3 Out Tokens, 2 Pitch Tokens (1 red and 1 white), 6. Pitcher's Dice (white) and 2 Fatigue Tokens. The Fatigue Tokens are placed on the Field Fatigue Track and matched according to what the pitcher Ace Pitch is, i.e., Low and Inside.
Game Play - The game is played over a series of rounds with each round having five phases.
1. Stare-Down - Each player takes their two Pitch Tokens and secretly selects a direction (Inside or Away) and location (High or Low). The Batter receives one or both Pitch Tokens if he guessed correctly what the Pitcher chose, and the Pitcher receives whatever Pitch Tokens the Batter guessed incorrectly. These tokens will correspond to the Pitcher and Batter abilities on the back of the card.
2. The Pitch - The Pitcher rolls both of their dice and may apply any abilities/penalties from their Traits and Stare-Down results.
3. The Swing - The Batter rolls their single die and may apply any abilities/penalties from their Traits and Stare-Down results. You then reference the table in the rule book to see if it's a ball, strike, or contact. If contact, proceed to the Run! phase.
4. Run! - Both players pick up their numbered die and rapidly roll them until either player gets a five or six. If the Batter gets this result first, he yells "Safe!" and places his Base Runner Meeple on first base, advancing any other meeples if necessary. If the Pitcher gets this result first, he yells "Out!" and no meeples advance. If it's a tie, tie goes to the Batter.
5. Clean Up - Between batters, the Pitcher can move their Fatigue Tokens up depending on the number of empty bases.
6. The winner of this game is the Pitcher if three outs are recorded or the Batter if one Base Runner Meeple crosses home plate.

Overall, I would give this game a 7 out of 10. At its core this is a bluffing/deduction game. The Batter and Pitcher simultaneously decide their actions, trying to outwit the other one. I didn't think I would like this mechanic initially, but it grew on me. If you play with the same person enough, you might learn their habits/tells, so be sure to keep changing your strategy. There are several big positives of the game. First, it's compact in size. The box and footprint for this game are very tiny, so you can play it in a lot of places and on the go without having to find a large folding table for everything. Secondly. it plays really quickly, but only if you want it to. As I stated earlier, you can play it in 5-20 minutes, because you're basically playing half an inning. However, there is a way to play a much longer game if that's something that interests you.

The components I found to be 95% positive, with the glaring exception being the player cards. Instead of printing the cards with a linen finish and rounded corners, they were printed on cardboard (like old baseball cards) and have sharp corners, which means if you want to keep this game looking good, you'll have to sleeve your cards. Other than that negative, the rest of the components were solidly made, and the presentation of these components was stunning. The meeples were shaped like baserunners. The cards even came in a pack with a "stick of gum." This made for a very thematic feel and immersed you in the game just by unpacking it out of its box.

Lastly, I would like to talk about the replay value of the game. Some games, especially shorter ones like this one, suffer from replay fatigue. However, this game has enough cards to create many different lineups. There are also several mini-expansions Big League Support Pack and Sentinels of the Ninth, which each retail for about $5 and will add another dozen players each to add even more variety for you game. There is a larger expansion for this game currently on Kickstarter called Bottom of the 9th: Clubhouse Expansion. It's in its final week, but well funded with several stretch goals unlocked. In addition to new players and new cards with equipment, the game also comes with cardboard Peanut tokens, which add more mechanics to the game and increase replay value. If you already own the base game, $24 will get you this expansion, but if you're brand new and want the base game, Clubhouse expansion, and every other mini-expansion mentioned above, it will cost you $54.

This game was provided to me by Greater Than Games in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Yet One More Spring (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

The number of books written about C.S. Lewis are too numerous to count. Just when you think we have reached the limit of facets we can explore about him or his writings, a new book comes out with a new way of looking at him or his writings. Today, however, we will not be looking at a book about C.S. Lewis. Instead, we will look at a book about his wife, Joy Davidman. Davidman was an equally talented writer who did not get near the attention that Lewis did, and she still doesn't get that attention. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. has sought to rectify that and released two books about/by her. They are titled Yet One More Spring and A Naked Tree, and they complement their 2009 release Out of My Bone. Today, we will be looking at Yet One More Spring.

Yet One More Spring is not a biography of Joy Davidman, but a study of her works. It was written by Don W. King, who has edited numerous works of both Davidman and C.S. Lewis. There is a brief introduction, which discusses how she was an award-winning poet and the many places her poetry was published. King then explains his method in writing this book, why he chose to approach her work chronologically, and his aim for this book. In summary, he hopes this book will expose more to her writings and get her recognized as one of the great American writers of the 20th Century.

The first chapter is devoted to her early writings, and by early I mean her writings from age 14 to 23. The next chapter solely focuses on her work "Letter to a Comrade," which was very political in nature. This leads to the next chapter of this book and her life, where she switched gears from fiction to nonfiction by writing reviews (film, book, theater) for the American Communist Party (CPUSA).She also served as a poetry editor for a young American Communist who died early of tuberculosis. Chapter Four discusses her move to Hollywood and working for MGM studio. This ultimately proved to be one of her biggest career mistakes, as she ultimately rejected the culture of Hollywood and everything it stood for. This chronology continues until we reach her love sonnets to C.S. Lewis and the final chapter, which talks about all the works she continued to develop well after her last published work.

Reading through this work provided an interesting literary history of an author/writer/poet, who I only ever knew of by name. It's no surprise that her life was reflected in her writings, but it was refreshing that her history was not whitewashed, and we got to see her work develop with the many life experiences that shaped her. I particularly liked the chapter which touched on her love sonnets to C.S. Lewis, and I have decided to tackle reading those in the book A Naked Tree. If you are looking to learn more about a great writer who was more than just the wife of C.S. Lewis, then I recommend you pick up a copy of Yet One More Spring.

This book was provided to me for free by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Friday, April 29, 2016

My Catholic Bible and A Missal for Children (Ignatius Press)

We're entering the time of year when second graders throughout the United States will be receiving their First Communion. What kind of gift should you get this child? A rosary? A crucifix necklace? A wall crucifix? All of these are good options, but my favorite gift, my go-to gift is always going to be some kind of book. Today, I have two such recommendations from you, both from Ignatius Press. They are entitled My Catholic Bible and A Missal for Children.

My Catholic Bible is an illustrated Bible for children ages 7 and up. It begins with an introduction on what the the Bible is and how to read this edition of the Bible. It is then naturally divided into the Old Testament and New Testament with further divisions based on overarching themes. For example, the Old Testament addresses Creation, Abraham, Exodus, David, etc. The New Testament divides itself into Jesus' parables, miracles, His death, and His Resurrection. It also speaks of the first Christians, St. Paul's journeys, and the end of the New Testament.

Each section begins with a brief introduction and the Scriptural reference. Each section then contains a mixture of story and actual Biblical quotations, which are identified with italics. At the end of each section, there are references/stories that put the section into a historical context. The pictures in this book are prolific. It's not merely one every five to ten pages, but they are on almost every page. I would describe the illustration style as watercolor. Using this illustration style creates a soft and inviting touch. The writing style is very approachable for young readers, but it doesn't dumb down the truth of the Word of God. The presentation style caps this off as it has gilded pages, a ribbon bookmark, and comes in a gift box. This is the perfect Bible to give to your first communicant.

A Missal for Children is a portable semi-leather book that is designed to help children understand what the Mass is and participate more fully in it. It is also designed to help children with morning prayer, evening prayer, and Confession. The book, therefore, begins with the meaning of the Mass and a guide to the Liturgy. These explanations contain information about Liturgical colors, the Liturgical Year, and the mystery that is the Mass. The book is then divided into the different parts of the Mass - Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, the different Eucharistic Prayers, and Concluding Rites. Each section contains a brief introduction and all the prayers of the Mass. The prayers of the Mass are numbered, because there is also a brief explanation on each individual prayer.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with this book. It is of high quality, so it hold up to the frequent use of weekly Mass. It is beautifully illustrated to help enhance learning and keep the attention of young minds. It is also useful for times outside of Mass, including family prayer and it contains a glossary of difficult terms and objects your child will see when attending Mass. This book will stand the test of time and be of use to your children throughout the rest of their elementary years!

These books were provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.