Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Great Dinosaur Rush (APE Games)

Paleontology has always been an interest of mine. The idea of digging up giant bones and putting the puzzle together to re-create these massive beasts always seemed like it would be fun. Therefore, when I heard that APE Games had created a board game that lets you pretend to be a paleontologist, I knew I had to give this game a try. The Great Dinosaur Rush is a game for 2-5 players, ages 10+. It takes approximately one hour to play and retails for $50. (Note: If you order directly from the publisher, you get exclusive paleontologist and dinosaur meeples, which are always better than generic cubes!)

1. Place the game board in the middle of the table.
2. Give each player a Screen, a Paleontologist token, a Score Cube of their color, which they will place near the 1 on the score track.
3. Place five black cubes (or dinosaur meeples) on the top row of each of the Museum Categories of the game board. Place the last black cube (or dinosaur meeple) on the top "Field Phase 1" space on the game board.
4. Place all of the Notoriety tokens into the small bag.
5. Either randomly give each player a Paleontologist card or let players specifically select their card.
6. Give each player two Dinosaur Bones cards face-down.
7. Give each player starting Bones of the following amount: two red, two yellow, and three green. These go in front of the player's Screen and can never be lost.
8. Place the rest of the Bones into the large bag. Then, draw three Bones from the bag and put them on a hex space on the game board. Do this for every hex space, depending on the player count.
9. The last player who visited a museum is the starting player. He places his Paleontologist on one of the paleontologist token spaces, and then the rest of the players do in clockwise order.
Game Play - The game is played over three rounds with each round having the following three phases:
1. Field Phase (x3):
a. Collect any Bones in your dig site.
b. Move your Paleontologist to another space. You may move as many spaces as you want, as long as it is in a straight line, not through tar, and you end on a space with no other Paleontologists.
c. Publicize - Move the black cube on one of the Museum Categories up or down one space.
d. Actions - Perform a standard or notorious action as listed on the inside of the player screen. (Note: If you perform a notorious action, you must take a Notoriety token.)
After performing these four actions, play passes to the next player. The Field Phase ends after all players have executed the Field Phase three times.
2. Build Phase - Each player must use all Bones they gathered to construct a dinosaur, following the guidelines on your screen. (Example, the spine must have at least one green bone.) Ideally, you want to match bones according to your Dinosaur Bonus cards to score bonus points.
3. Exhibit Phase - Place the screens aside and score each player's dinosaur by each of the five categories (size, height, length, ferocity, and uniqueness). Ties are friendly. After scoring the five categories, players reveal and score their completed Dinosaur Bonus cards.
Overall, I found this game to be an enjoyable experience, which is what I have come to expect from games designed by Scott Almes. The biggest positive I have from this game is the artwork. From the box, to the paleontologist cards, to the dinosaur bones cards, each one was a work of art and I feel like these artists went above and beyond on this game. The second thing I liked was that the game could be considered educational. Both the paleontologists and the dinosaurs in this game are all factual. I've seen a lot of games, just make up clever names to add some humor or theme to a game, but instead we get actual paleontologists, fossil hunters, illustrators, and museum directors. I didn't realize that there were so many women involved in paleontology. That was eye-opening to me.

Where I feel mixed on this game is the construction of the dinosaur. Don't get me wrong, this a very fun experience. You take your little dinosaur bones, and behind your screen, you are arranging and rearranging the pieces and trying to make the best dinosaur you can. This was a blast and crunched your brain a bit, but even with everyone doing this simultaneously, if you have one over-thinker, it will drag this phase out longer than it needs to be. The other game play element I have mixed feelings on is the take that nature in the game. You can sabotage, use dynamite, and steal from your opponents. Unlike other games, this one penalizes you with notoriety tokens. If you have the most at the end of the game, you will lose that amount in points.

The mixed feelings aside, I really did find this to be a fun game, and I look forward to playing it more times and trying out different paleontologists, as each of them have their own special ability that provide both asymmetric starting powers and variable game play.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Let There Be No Divisions Among You (Sophia Institute Press)

Let There Be No Divisions Among You is an attempt by the Rev. John MacLaughlin to explain why all Christians should be Catholic or to be more specific Roman Catholic. The book is divided into two parts - There Can Be Only One Church and Marks of the One True Church. In the first part of the book, he speaks primarily of indifferentism, which in layman's terms says that all religions are equal if you lead a good/moral life. To dispute this ridiculous notions, he gives us five examples (in five chapters) that disprove it - Reason, Revelation, the Conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10), the Council of Jerusalem, and St. Paul. This was a solid argument that was well-reasoned and gave concrete examples of how you cannot just pick whatever religion/denomination you want.

Part Two is shorter in span and attempts to show the reader what criteria makes up the one true Church. The Church is normally known for its four marks - one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Oddly, Rev. MacLaughlin choose to reduce his criteria to two - unity and universality. He then focuses on The Church of England and "The Greek-Russian Church" (better known as the Orthodox Church) to explain how they have neither have unity nor universality, unlike the Roman Catholic Church. This was an unfortunate section to read. The author seems very militant in his approach and use of words, constantly using the term schismatic when referring to these two churches. To make matters worse, he is under the impression that the Orthodox Church does not do missionary work. All I need to do is reference Alaska and St. Herman of Alaska to easily dispute that. The author also seems to only reference the Roman Catholic Church, which is is the biggest rite in the Catholic Church, but certainly not the only one.

Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this book, and I honestly expected to when I saw the title. As good as the first half of the book is, the second half is equally disappointing. I believe the author's intentions were good, but his execution in his message left much to be desired and could instead turn people off from converting to the Catholic Church.

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Our Lady's Message (Sophia Institute Press)

Sophia Institute Press is historically known for printing quality Catholic books for adults with occasional titles for children. Today, I would like to focus on one of their recent children's books, Our Lady's Message, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Fatima. The books is for children with a minimum age of 7, but written in such a way that there is no maximum age that it would appeal to. The author is well-known, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle and illustrated by Ann Engelhart, who illustrated other beautiful Catholic children's books.

The book tells about the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in a storybook format, making the message approachable and not a dry, historical summary. Each chapter then ends with a reflection or "something to think about" section, which pulls back on some key event in the chapter and asks you to apply it to your daily life. The book begins by giving a brief background on the three shepherd children, and then leads into the message of the Angel of Peace. We then see the visits from the Virgin Mary; the three secrets of Fatima; the children being put in jail; and my personal favorite, the Miracle of the Dancing Sun. The book could have ended there, and it would have been a fine children's book, but O'Boyle doesn't shy away from the story and tells of the deaths of Francisco and Jacinta and the further life and ministry of Lucia, who went on to become a religious sister. The book has a nice flow to it, and the illustrations sprinkled throughout which add to the story without dominating the words. What I really appreciated though was the appendices, which give your children prayers associated with Fatima and a guide on how to pray the Rosary.

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