Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Agricola: Family Edition (Mayfair Games)

Agricola is a board game that has been around for over a decade and still stands the test of time. If you visit the Boardgamegeek website, you will see that it still ranks #11 out of tens of thousands of games. That says something to its longevity that despite all the hot new games released every year, it still stands the test of time. I looked into playing it one time, but when I saw the amount of expansions and decks of cards that you could add to it to make the game new/different/better, I shrunk away and said, maybe this game is not for me. Luckily for me and other newer gamers out there, Mayfair Games has released a Family Edition of this classic that streamlines the game, making setup, game play, and scoring easier! Agricola: Family Edition is a game for 1-4 players, ages 8+. It takes approximately 45 minutes to play and retails for $45.
Setup
1. Place the game board in the middle of the table with the round marker on space one.
2. Attach the appropriate game board extension depending on the number of players.
3. Place all the animals, resources, grain, stables, and food markers next to the board.
4. Also place the rooms (wood side up), pastures, begging, and substitute markers next to the board.
5. Place the windmill, basketmaker's workshop, pottery, joinery, and depot into their respective spaces on the board. All other improvements are placed above the game board.
6. Give each player a starting house (wood side up) and two meeples of their color.
7. Determine a starting player randomly. They receive the rooster and two food. All other players receive three food.
Game Play - The game is played over 14 rounds with each round having three phases:
1. Preparation - Place new goods on the game board wherever a colored arrow is pictured. (Note: The number of goods is dictated by the number to the left of the goods.)
2. Work - Players place one of their meeples on an action space on the game board, carrying out the action immediately. Proceed clockwise until all players have placed their meeples.
3. Returning Home - Take your meeples off the action spaces and place them back on your house. Then, move the round marker forward one space, which will unlock a new action space.
*4. Harvest - At the end of rounds 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 14 a harvest occurs. During the harvest, you must feed your people. Your animals also breed and produce a baby if you have space on your farm to put it.

Scoring
Each person is worth three points. Each begging marker loses three points. Each tile (not wood rooms), stable, grain in your field, and animal on your farm are all worth one point.

Review
Agricola: Family Edition is a welcome and approachable edition to a classic. The board is modular, so that you can add a piece to it for each game size. The components are amazing quality, in that all the pieces are thick cardboard or wood, and it is a lot of wood! Wooden sheep, wooden cows, wood hay, wooden people,  wooden wood! These pieces feel great in your hand and make the game more appealing to a younger audience, because it makes the game more tangible. I also like that the rules, game play, and scoring are streamlined. This makes the game quick to learn, easy to teach, and an all around pleasant experience. The only negative with the game is replay value. There is not much variability with the game, because the same buildings/improvements come out at the same time every game. That's a negative for experience gamers, but a positive for kids, families, casual gamers, or people who don't want to play the game more than once a month. If you are a more serious gamer, plan on playing Agricola more often, get the recently released Revised Edition. If not, then stick with the Family Edition and you won't be disappointed.

This game was provided to me for free by Mayfair Games in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Meeting God in the Upper Room (Servant Books)

The Upper Room is one of the most important locations in Church history. It was in this room that the Last Supper occurred and Jesus washed His disciples' feet and gave us the Eucharist. Jesus also appeared here after His Resurrection, and this is where Pentecost occurred. Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi recently wrote a book that focuses on these events called Meeting God in the Upper Room. The book is divided into three chapters, which correspond to the three events I mentioned earlier.

The first chapter helps us prepare our Upper Room with some advice from the U.S. Catechism for Adults. It tells us to go to confession, fast, reflect on the readings before Mass, come early for Mass, and go to Eucharistic Adoration. The second chapter discusses the institution of Holy Orders and the Eucharist. Chapter Three was very interesting to me, as it talked about the different personalities present at the Last Supper. In the second part of the book we witness the institution of Penance and a portrait of Thomas. The final part of the book not only gives us a chapter on Pentecost, but one on Mary as well, which I appreciate, because many Christians tend to forget that she was there too. We tend to think that after the Crucifixion and Resurrection, she just faded away. However, she still has a prominent role in the ministry of Jesus.

This book was very well-written and shines light on a place of Christendom that we find so many of our origins. Monsignor Vaghi draws upon Scripture, the Catechism, the Second Vatican Council, and writings of some of our most recent popes to give a compelling read. This book is written with the hands of a pastor, a teacher, and thus it is beneficial for our spiritual growth. With Lent quickly approaching, I recommend picking up a copy and reading your way through it during this season.

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Stories of Hymns (EWTN Publishing)

The Stories of Hymns is a 300 page book that provides the history of "100 of Christianity's greatest hymns." Each chapter begins with the full text of the hymn. After that, there is a couple of pages giving context and history for the hymn, as well as some explanation of the hymn where necessary. Before I picked up this book, I admit that I went in a bit arrogant, thinking I would recognize 90% of these hymns. After all, I grew up Baptist, and they love to sing! And now that I am Catholic, I figured I had been exposed to most all Christian music. WRONG! In fact, I didn't recognize 90% of these hymns. This was very humbling, and I not only learned so much about the hymns that I knew, but I learned about so many other hymns. Before reading through this book, I used to flip through the hymnal and notice names and years, but not really thinking about it. After this book, I now see so much more. I know not only when these were hymns written but why they were written. If you are a lover of hymns or know someone who is, then this is a book that belongs in their life. I would definitely consider getting one for your music minister if they don't already have it, as it will be edifying for them and could lead them into an even deeper ministry, which will be good for them and the church they serve.

This book was provided to me for free by Sophia Institute Press in exchange for an honest review.