Thursday, July 27, 2017

Starving Artists (Fairway 3 Games)

I do not have a single creative bone in my body. That includes anything musical or artistic. That's not to say that I don't appreciate both, and don't enjoy going to the symphony or museum. I just know my creative limits, and they basically stop at paint-by-number. When I heard about the game Starving Artists (self-described as paint-by-cube), I knew I wanted to play this game. Starving Artists is a game for 1-4 players, ages 12+. It takes between 30-60 minutes to play and retails for $30. (Note: You can also add on a game mat for $15, which appropriately has an image of Johnannes Vermeer's work The Art of Painting.)

Setup
1. Give each player a Studio Card. This will be used to track your nutrition level, track the day, store your Paint Cubes, and remind you of the day's actions.
2. Give each player a matching set of Player Markers, placing one on the 0 of the score track, and the other on the 5 of their nutrition level.
3. Pour all the Paint Cubes into the bag and mix well. Then, have each player draw six random cubes from the bag, placing them in their studio.
4. Shuffle the Canvas Cards, and place them face-down in a stack. Form the Canvas Market by turning over three and forming a row next to the deck.
5. Give the first-player token (Carrot) to the person who most recently visited a museum.
Game Play - The game is played over several rounds with players taking one action in the morning and one in the afternoon. At night, all players have the option of selling their paintings.
1. Add four Paint Cubes from the bag to the Paint Market (center of the table).
2. Lower your nutrition level by one (except on the first day). If your nutrition drops below one, you are eliminated, and players have one more day left in the game.
3. The first player places the carrot on the morning phase of his Studio Card.
4.  On your turn, you will take two actions (one at a time) and may take one free action. The actions are as follows:
a. Buy a new canvas - Pay one to three cubes depending on where the card is in the Canvas Market.
b. Paint - Apply up to four Paint Cubes from your Studio to any number of your Canvases.
c. Work - Draw three Paint Cubes and put them in your Studio.
Free actions:
a. Trade Paint Cubes - Trade Paint Cubes from your Studio to the Paint Market, using the following ratios - 2:1, 5:2, 9:3. (Note: Trading is expensive and you can trade wild cubes back to the Market but never take them from the Market.)
b. Reset the Canvas Market - Pay two Paint Cubes to the Paint Market to discard the cards in the Canvas Market and draw three new ones.
5. Sell Paintings - In the night phase, the first player declares if they are selling paintings, how many, and which one(s). Other players do this in clockwise order. Selling paintings raises your nutrition level, scores you points, and gets you paid in Paint Cubes. (Note: Players will get paid based on who has the highest value painting sold.)

The game ends at different intervals based on number of players. 2 players = 7 paintings/16 points, 3 players = 6 paintings/14 points, and 4 players = 5 paintings/12 points.
Review
Starving Artists is a game that is creatively simple and simply creative. The concept of taking cubes and placing them on famous artwork to complete the painting is genius and makes you wonder why no one thought of it before. Don't let the simplicity fool you. There is strategy to this game, as it's a juggling act between picking the right Canvas, acquiring the right blend of Paint Cubes, and not starving. I admit that I went hungry and lost the first time I tried playing this. Players turns can create a little downtime, but that is true with a lot of games. The only complaint I heard with the numerous people I played with is that it's a shame that it only plays four. Designer, Mike Wokasch, thought of that and created a kit you could buy that would give you the ability to play with up to six players. I am going to have to invest in this, as I regularly play more than four!

The components in this game are well thought out and produced. For starters, the paintings are very vibrant and high resolution. If it wasn't for the squares to place your cubes, you'd swear you were staring at miniature re-creations of them. The cubes themselves are translucent, which was a brilliant decision. I imagine wooden cubes would have been much more economical to produce, but the plastic translucent ones really add that extra aesthetics to the game. I normally don't buy extra game boards, but this neoprene one is a worthy investment as it serves as both a rule reminder and statement piece for the game.

With over 90 unique canvas cards, the replay value is strong in this game. You won't paint all the same canvases from game to game, and you probably won't see them all either without a couple of plays through the game. With that said, I hope to see the designer continue adding to this game, perhaps through little booster packs, but I don't know how economical it would be. My thoughts were to pick popular artists (Van Gogh, Rembrant, Picasso, etc.) and make perhaps 10 card booster packs of them. (Yes, I know these artists already have several representatives of their artwork in this game). However, if you released popular artist booster packs, you could add even more theme to the game. Let people have their own deck to draw from, and the first one to paint the required number of paintings (based on player count) wins.

What I liked best about this game was the hidden educational/cultural value. When I was in school, I took an art history class, and it was boring! It seemed like no one wanted to be there, including the teacher. This game, however, secretly teaches you and your children about great art through the centuries, as the cards show you the piece and provide an artist and time when it was painted. I thought I knew a fair bit of famous art before this game, but I was mistaken, as there were so many works in here that I did not recognize. I found myself learning without even trying to, and feel like that was an added benefit to a great game. For this reason alone, I think it is a game that belongs in the classroom and homeschool environment, in addition to on a family's game shelf!

This game was provided to me for free by Fairway 3 Games in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Letter and Spirit Volume 11: Our Beloved Brother Paul

Letter and Spirit is an outstanding yearly journal of Catholic Biblical Theology. It is published by St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and Emmaus Road Publishing. 2016 gave us Volume 11, titled Our Beloved Brother Paul. The book is just over 200 pages long and is divided into nine articles written by big names, such as Matthew Levering, Matthew Ramage, Brant Pitre, and of course Scott Hahn. The titles of the articles are as follows:

1. Partakers of Adoption: Irenaeus and His Use of Paul
2. Origen, Augustine, and "Works of Law"
3. Cyril of Alexandria's Reception of the Apostle Paul
4. Aquinas's Reception of Paul: Reading the Testaments Together
5. Aquinas's Reading of Romans: The Multiple Literal Sense and Contemporary Perspectives on Paul
6. The Old and New Law in Nicholas of Lyra's Pauline Commentaries
7. St. Paul in Matthias Scheeben: The Plenary Significance of the Incarnation
8. The Reception of St. Paul in the Works of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI
9. The Reception of Paul in the New Lectionary

Though each of the articles provided a great proved to be fruitful in their reading, I particularly enjoyed the last two articles. In article eight, Matthew Ramage begins by talking about the Pauline Year in 2008. In the opening homily by Pope Benedict XVI, he talks about how Paul is more than just a saint of the past, but he is also a teacher for us in the present day. The article then goes on to discuss key points in Paul's theology, such as justification by faith, faith or charity alone, authentic freedom in Christ, and the Mystical Body of Christ. In article nine, Brant Pitre shows how Vatican II completely reshaped the Lectionary and included many more of Paul's writings. This article is chock full of tables. The two most telling ones are the ones that show the writings of Paul in the Post-Tridentine Lectionary and the three year Ordinary Time cycle of the new Lectionary. Pitre also goes on to show how the readings flow from day to day and Sunday to Sunday. It is not a random sampling of Paul's writings, but systematic. Lastly, they serve a vital part in the seasons of the Church, particularly Advent and Lent.

The Letter and Spirit Journal series is one that I enjoy receiving and reading every year. It is one of the few books that I don't skim and rush through, because frankly I can't. The articles are a nice blend of being challenging but approachable. You walk away with a deeper understanding of your faith, not just at an academic level, but at a spiritual level too. I look forward to the next volume already, and cannot wait for it to be published it so that I may chew on the wisdom and digest what I can. This is a series I recommend for those Catholics serious about their faith and wanting to take it to a deeper, richer level.

This book was provided to me for free by Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stroop (Grand Gamers Guild)

When I was in college, I pursued a degree in Psychology. During that time, I worked for a professor who was studying the Stroop Effect. The Stroop Effect in a nutshell, measures the reaction time due to interference of a task. That task is usually associated with the names of colors and the color of text in those names. For example, if the word "red" is written in red font, it is easy for your brain to recognize the word "red." However, if the word "red" is written in yellow, your brain wants to think "yellow" instead of "red." Grand Gamers Guild took this frustrating psychological test and made it into a game, appropriately named StroopStroop is a game for 2-4 players. It takes approximately 15 minutes to play and retails for $18.
Setup
1. Shuffle the 65 basic cards on your first game. (Note: If experienced, shuffle 65 basic and 45 advanced cards.)
2. Deal 15 cards face-down to each player.
3. Place one card face-up in the center of the table.
Game Play Round One - Players simultaneously draw cards (one at a time) into their hand as fast as they can. (Note: There is no hand limit.) Each player is trying to play a card on top of the center card, which is described by the center card. For example, if the center card is black in color but the word is "yellow," then a legal card to play would be any card with yellow-colored text. The round ends when one player has drawn all their cards from their deck and is unable to play any remaining cards from their hand. The player says "STOP," and all players return cards in their hand back to their draw pile for Round Two. Note: If a player makes a mistake playing a card, they may take the card back with no penalty. If a player says, "STOP," but still has legal cards to play, play continues, but the mistaken player cannot play anymore cards.
Game Play Round Two - Distribute the cards in the center pile (from Round One) evenly to all players. If unable to distribute evenly, supplement from the unused cards. Each players takes their remaining cards from Round One and the re-distributed cards and shuffles them to form their personal draw pile. (Note: All players will most likely not have the same amount of cards.) Round Two is identical in game play to Round One with one exception, a card may only be played if it describes the center card. For example, if the center card is black in color but the word is "yellow," then a legal card to play would be any card that says "black" or any card with the word "six," as the word "yellow" has six letters. When one player declares, "STOP," the game ends. Players count their remaining cards in their hand and draw pile. The player with the fewest cards is the winner.

Review
This game (even though it wasn't) seems like it was tailor-made for me to play and review. I tested scores of students on the Stroop Effect in college using a program that my professor developed. I even took the test numerous times as well, just to pass the time some days. Not to brag, but I got so good at it that I could almost beat it. Therefore, when I heard that this game was coming out, I wanted to try it, and the game did not disappoint.

For starters, it is quick to play, making it a perfect filler or game for families and new gamers. Secondly, the mechanic seems familiar to casual gamers, as it feels a bit like UNO or Skip-Bo. Third, there are two modes of game play to accommodate different levels of players. The basic version focuses mainly on color, number of letters, font size, and solid or hollow font. The advanced version adds font direction (forward or backward) to make your brain burn a little bit more when playing and adding just enough more difficulty to the the game. The last and best thing I love about this game is the scientific nature of it. The first round is like a control round. Players familiarize themselves with the game play and the basic concept of the Stroop Effect. The second round really puts your wits to the test, as you are trying to describe the card, while trying not to get tripped up due to the ease of the first round. Highly recommended for casual and experienced gamers alike!

This game was provided to me for free by Grand Gamers Guild in exchange for an honest review.