Friday, June 24, 2016

Praying the Gospels (The Word Among Us Press)

In recent years, I have used Fr. Mitch Pacwa's Bible Study books available from Our Sunday Visitor, and I have always been pleased with the books. When I found out that The Word Among Us Press had a new Bible Study series by Fr. Pacwa, I knew that I had to give this a try. The series is called Praying the Gospels and the first two books are Jesus Launches His Ministry and Jesus' Miracles in Galilee. Each book is designed to help you reflect better on specific events in Jesus' life and ministry. Let me tell you about the books.

Jesus Launches His Ministry is an approximately 175 page book that is divided into the following eight chapters:

1. The Baptism of Jesus
2. Temptations in the Wilderness
3. Between Baptism and Capernaum
4. The Wedding Feast at Cana
5. Jesus Inaugurates His Public Ministry
6. The First Exorcism and Manifestation of Jesus' Authority
7. The Transition from Capernaum to the Galilean Ministry
8. Put Out into the Deep

Jesus' Miracles in Galilee is also an approximately 175 page book that picks up where the first book left off. It is divided into the following thirteen chapters:

1. Jesus Begins His Preaching Mission throughout Galilee
2. The Cleansing of the Leper
3. The Healing of a Paralytic
4. The Healing of a Man with a Withered Hand
5. The Centurion's Request for a Healing
6. The Raising of the Widow of Nain's Son
7. Storms at Sea
8. The Healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman and Jairus' Daughter
9. The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish
10. Walking on the Storms of Life
11. A Syrophoenician Woman
12. Jesus Heals a Deaf Man
13. Sailing to Bethsaida

Within each chapter, there are several meditations, which break apart subsections of the Gospel passage. For example, in "The Baptism of Jesus." we see six meditations, which cover topics such as John the Baptist, Jesus' journey to the Jordan River, and the manifestation of the Trinity. Within these meditations, Fr. Pacwa instructs us with other Scripture passages, both Old and New Testament. He then probes the reader with reflection questions to answer and provides several lines at the end of each meditation to give you ample room to answer the questions and write your thoughts.

The books are nice in that they chronologically and thematically walk us through the Gospels. No one Gospel is the focus of these books, but instead Fr. Pacwa draws from all four of them to give us a complete picture. I also like the fact that each meditation is only a few pages long and only focuses on a tiny bit of the Gospel. Too often, when we read Gospel, we try and read a whole chapter at a time. These chapters contain a lot of parables, miracles, and other events that make it hard to grasp all at once. Fr. Pacwa eliminates this with his bite-size approach. I wish there had been a book before these two that focused on Mary, Joseph, and the infancy passages of Jesus, but the focus of this series seems to be the three years of Jesus' ministry and not the thirty years prior. That wish aside, I would highly recommend these books, for someone looking to take a slow, deliberate, and meditative walk through the Gospels. I look forward to seeing how many more books there will be in this series and am sure to recommend them as much as I recommend these two.

These books were provided to me for free by The Word Among Us Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rocky Road a la Mode (Green Couch Games)

Summer is upon us and the heat (at least in the South) is unbearable. As my boss likes to say, "I saw a dog chasing a cat the other day, and both of them were walking." Most people's favorite way to cool off in the summer is ICE CREAM! Well, today I don't have ice cream to review, but I have the next best thing, an ice cream themed game. Rocky Road a la Mode is a card game currently on Kickstarter. It is designed for 2-4 players ages 10 and up. It takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to play and a pledge of $19 will get you the game. (Note: You can pledge $25 to get a mini-game for two players called Rocky Road: Dice Cream)
1. Each player takes a Truck Card and places it in front of them
2. Place the Road Cards (could be upgraded to a board) in the center of the table to form a continuous loop.
3. Place one Rocket Pop Token on each of the three pothole spaces on the Road.
4. Place the Truck Tokens (matching the colors of the Truck Cards in play) randomly on the start square on the Road.
5. Shuffle the Treat Cards and deal three to each player to form their starting hand.
6. Place the remaining Treat Cards face-down in a stack in the middle of the table, turning three cards face-up in a row.
7. Place the eight Location Cards face-up in four stacks. (Note: Each stack will contain two cards with the same location. Place the higher point value on top.)
Game Play - Players do not alternate turns. The player whose Truck Token is furthest behind on the road takes their turn. On a player's turn, they may perform one of three actions:
1. Restock - Draw up to five Treat Cards and move their Truck Token an equal number of spaces clockwise on the Road. (Players may draw from the three face up cards or the draw pile, much like Ticket to Ride.)
2. Attract Customers - Place a Treat Card from your hand under your Truck Card by paying its time cost (found in the upper right corner). This will give you two customers to serve on future turns.
3. Serve Customers - Discard cards with the treat types (found in the upper left corner) that the group demands and move up one space on the Road. (You can only serve one group per turn. Once you have served the first group slide the card further under your truck to hide the first group. Once you have served the second group, place the card horizontally under the left side of the truck to show your Loyalty Points/Permanent Supply Bonus.)
1. Rocket Pop Tokens are wild cards that can be used for any ice cream flavor, but are returned to the Road after play.
2. Permanent Supply Bonus can be used to fill an order in place of a Treat Card.
3. When a player has completed a specific amount of orders (i.e., three blue or three orange), he can take a Location Card that will score him two to four Loyalty Points.
4. The first player with nine or more Loyalty Points triggers the end game, giving everyone else a chance to go again until the player who triggered the end game is furthest back on the Road. The player with the most points at the end is the winner.

This was a quick game with a fun theme attached to it. It also had a bit of depth to it that I wasn't expecting. For starters, you have to manage both your time and resources in this game. Since turns do not alternate (or go clockwise if more than two players), each decision will make you pause and think before you make it. If your opponent is two spaces in front of you, do you draw three cards and give them a turn? Or do you only draw two cards, so you can have another turn immediately? The cards also serve a multi-use function. Will you play the card under the truck to Attract a Customer? Or will you play the card to Serve a Customer? You will have to weigh several options carefully (the time cost, the items required to serve each customer, and the Loyalty Points/Permanent Supply Bonus) before making this decision.

After looking at the game play value, I look at the aesthetics of the game, and this game is not lacking in that department at all. I received a prototype of this game and it was a very nice prototype. The colors had a nice summery feel, and they had a way of making you hungry when playing the game. Unfortunately for my fellow players, there was no ice cream allowed when playing as I didn't want it to drip on even the prototype of this beautiful game. The choice of color for player tokens was not unnoticed by my wife. We are all used to playing with the standard blue, red, yellow, and green tokens, but this one had a pink token in it - a win for women gamers! Lastly, the cards had a nice feel to them. If they took the time to produce thick, quality cards for a prototype, then I know the actual game will have lasting components as well.

Rocky Road a la Mode is Green Couch Games sixth project on Kickstarter. Each one has been successfully funded to produce an excellent, pocket-sized game. I am proud to own all of them and enjoy playing them frequently with family and friends. The project itself is only a few days old, but it has already been successfully funded. It is now up to you to make this game better for yourself and all who pledge. Current stretch goals will make Truck Tokens into actual ice-cream shaped trucks. There will be bonus Treat Tokens added to make new ways of playing the game and increase replay value. The Road Cards will also be upgraded to an actual game board. So if this game sounds fun to you, I invite you to beat the heat, and back this sweet treat!

A prototype of this game was provided to me for free by Green Couch Games in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Epic Food Fight (Servant Books)

Epic Food Fight begins with an introduction on who Fr. Leo is, his famous defeat of Chef Bobby Flay, and how he learned the importance of food in the Catholic faith and uses it as a teaching tool. In the first chapter, Fr. Leo explains that God had a diet plan for Adam and Eve (not eating the forbidden fruit). However, they fell into the oldest and most common sin. They wanted to be God, to be like God. It was a sin Lucifer knew all too well, as it was what got him kicked out of Heaven. Fr. Leo then uses the rest of the first chapter to demonstrate other instances in the Old Testament of God feeding His people, primarily the Exodus and the manna from heaven.

Chapter Two focuses primarily on Jesus. It is appropriately entitled, "The Truth Becomes Flesh to Feed the World." In this chapter, Fr. Leo points out food references related to Jesus' life. We see Jesus was born in Bethlehem or the "House of Bread." He likens Jesus' uneventful day-to-day life that the Gospels don't speak of as leaven doing their work. He also points out that Jesus' public ministry began at a wedding feast, where He turned water into wine. The second miracle was then the multiplication of the loaves and fish. The book continues on with the food analogy, showing roles of the Church, the priest, and us individually in feeding the world. The book ends with a 10 Commandments of Personal Dieting, which is meant to be taken both literally and metaphorically.

This book was an interesting read, as it presented salvation history in a lens I had never thought of - food. Most/all of the information presented in this book was stuff I had already read/heard in other sources, but it was a creative teaching tool and one that will appeal to many people who have a strong connection to food. I, unfortunately, am not one of those people and eat to survive. With that being said, the 10 Commandments of Personal Dieting is a section I will visit again as I believe it will help me better appreciate the significance of food, both physically and spiritually. Therefore, while this book is 4 stars for me personally, I highly recommend it because I believe it would be a 5 star book for most other people.

If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!