Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tokaido App (Funforge)

I am not one who embraces technology. I often find myself shunning it from time to time. I know that ironic, because I run a blog, but it's true. I prefer physical books to ebooks. I prefer board games to video games. In fact, I just joined the 21st Century and bought my first smartphone earlier this year. When I purchased it, I vowed to myself that I would not be one of those people who was glued to his phone at all time, looking at frivolous apps. For the most part, I have been true to my word. I am not addicted to my phone, and it hasn't changed my media habits. However, I do have one vice on my smartphone - Tokaido!
Tokaido is a board game designed by the very talented Antoine Bauza. It plays 3-5 players and takes about 45 minutes to play. In the game, you and your opponents are travelers crossing the East Sea Road. On this journey, you are competing with the other travelers to have the best journey. You can accomplish this by completing many tasks including collecting the most unique souvenirs, donating the most to the temple, and eating the best meals. There are 10 characters to choose from and each provide you with unique abilities to focus your game strategy on. It also ensures that you will have a unique experience each game play.
You can play the game offline in two ways - 1. Solo versus AI players or 2. Pass and play versus people sitting next to you. You can also play the game online versus people from around the world. I really loved the board game version of this, and this app replicates the game well. The graphics are top-notch. The game play is smooth, and it provides a very accurate representation of how the game plays. Hopefully, the app soon updates with the two expansions (Crossroads and Matsuri), so that even more game play value is unlocked.

This copy of the app was provided to me for free by Funforge in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Trials of Saint Patrick (Augustine Institute)

Radio dramas is a forgotten form of entertainment in today's age. One of the most famous ones ever was Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds, which had people truly believing that aliens had landed and were going to wipe us off the face of the earth. The BBC has made some good ones in recent times with my favorite one being The Chronicles of Narnia. Last year, Augustine Institute has utilized this medium with their Augustine Institute Radio Theatre. Their first program, which debuted last year was Brother Francis: The Barefoot Saint of Assisi. This year they released The Trials of Saint Patrick. Both are available for $30 a piece. The Trials of Saint Patrick is a 4 CD/8 part radio drama with actor John Rhys-Davies leading the billing. The episodes are as follows:

1. Abduction - Older Patrick is before a tribunal and recounts his teens where he became a slave
2. The Way Out - Patrick escapes after having been a slave for six years
3. Home - Patrick is reunited with his family
4. Preparations - Patrick studies in France and meets Tertius
5. Old Masters - Patrick begins his mission in Hibernia, but meets great resistance
6. King of Kings - Patrick displays a miracle of fire to King Laoghaire, so that he may continue preaching
7. Blood Crescent - Patrick takes on the pagans and their gods, and experiences a dark time in his life
8. Coroticus - The tribunal comes to a close, but not before Patrick is attacked for his past by someone who should be his friend

Included with the four CDs is a small discussion guide, which has several questions for each episode that are great for personal reflection or small groups. These questions reflect on Patrick's life by looking at it through the lenses of Scripture and the Catechism. Using these two pillars, we are asked to look at his life and compare it to ours. How do we respond to suffering? How can we better participate in God's plans for our life? How we can share the message of God with others?

The program was captivating to listen to, and I really appreciate that they got native-born United Kingdom actors to perform these roles. This added a level of authenticity to the program that would have been lacking if they just used American born actors. What I disliked about the program was the music. It was a bit louder at times than the spoken parts, so I felt I had to turn down the program when the music was on and turn it back up when the speaking occurred. As for the packaging, it is very beautiful, but I felt the size was unnecessary and unwieldy as it was twice the height of a normal CD. This might make it a little difficult to stock on shelves in physical stores. The sleeve was also a bit unneeded. Those quibbles aside, I think it's an excellent program that should be listened to by all Catholics. All most people know about St. Patrick is the shamrock (not mentioned in this program), that he drove all the snakes from Ireland, and that his feast day is March 17th. This program teaches you so much more about the man and saint. I highly recommend it.

This CD set was provided to me by Carmel Communications in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Francis Drake (Eagle-Gryphon Games)

Francis Drake was an English sea captain who carried out the second circumnavigation of the world. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581 and was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada, which made him a hero in England and a pirate in Spain. Eagle-Gryphon Games took this theme and re-created it in a worker-placement game. In this game for 3-5 players (age 14+), players will attempt to mimic his three voyages to the Spanish Main. The game takes 90-120 minutes to play, retails for $80, but you can find it most places for $50-55.
Setup
1. Place the game board on the table. Place the Plymouth Harbour Chart next to the board and populate the spaces on that board with their respective items (gold, silver, jewels, etc.).
2. Place one of each Commodity (Sugar, Tobacco, Coffee, and Indigo) on its corresponding icon at the three trade ports (San Juan, Santo Domingo, and Santiago de Cuba).
3. Shuffle the three Spanish Galleon Counters and place one face up on each of the galleon icons on the board.
4. Give each player the following in their player color - one frigate, one galleon, six mission discs, ten player discs, four player cubes, one scoring marker, and one ship log. Each player also takes a treasure chest and investor tile.
5. Place all the players ships off the board near Plymouth Harbour.
6. Have each player place one of their cubes on each of the three Types of Conquests Chart and one on their ship.
7. Have each player place their scoring marker on space 4.
8. Place the voyage marker on space 1.
9. Pick a set of location tiles determined by the number of players. Use these tiles to populate Plymouth Street.
Game Play - The game is played over three rounds (voyages) with each voyage having two phases.
Provisioning Phase:
1. Starting Order - Place the frigates in a cup or bag and randomly draw one out at a time to determine player order. Then place the ships in Homebound Docks. Give the last player one gun on voyage one, but not voyages two or three.
2. Placement and Selection - In player order, each player places one of their player discs on a circle of a location in Plymouth Street. (Note: Placement may start on the Crew Location or a subsequent location, so long as there is an empty circle to place a disc on.) Players will continue to place their discs in player order, so long as they are moving forward on the street and not placing a disc behind a previous disc. After placing your disc, take the items granted at that location and place them on your ship log. Once you feel you have enough items, you move your ship from Homebound Docks to Outbound Docks. This determines player order for the next phase.
Sailing Phase:
1. Prepare for sailing: Take four silver and place one on each of the two towns and forts. Do the same with four gold. Then, take three jewels and place them on each jewel icon near each Spanish Galleon. Whoever has the admiral counter, place one on the Spanish Frigate counters face-down. The holder of the Governor Counter places one on the Spanish Troop Counters face-down on the troop icon of each of the four forts. The holder of the Governor Counter also swaps his ship's position with the ship in position one to go first. Each player counts his supplies and places their remaining cubes on the navigation marker to determine which zones they may sail to.
2. Each player has a limited number of mission discs to show various destinations and mission order. Each player in player order places one of their mission discs face-down on the first circle at one of the destinations on the map. Play continues in player order until each player has placed all their discs. Since only two successful attacks are allowed at each destination, the order players arrive to each destination is important. All discs are flipped and placed in order from smallest to largest.
Successful attacks net you gold, silver, and victory points. Players may also perform commodity trades at trade ports. The board is then reset, so that voyage two may occur. Commodities are the only thing allowed to be kept by players. Repeat the two phases above. Then, do this again for voyage three. Players then score based on each set of different commodities. They also score based on the treasures from their treasure chests and score those as victory points too. Highest score wins.

Review
Francis Drake is a very interesting worker placement game mainly because of the "one-way street" twist on worker placement, which is similar to Tokaido. When you are deploying your workers, you must carefully look at all the options and decide beforehand what you want to acquire, who you want to visit, what you want to accomplish, and in what order, because once you pick a spot to go, you can't go backwards on the street to claim a spot you or other players skipped. This adds a bit of tension to your decisions as well. Do you claim the next available spot, even if it's something you don't really need in hopes of grabbing something else right after this spot? Or do you jump really far ahead on the street and forego some good stuff for a really great spot? In addition to the one-way street, there's also a press your luck element to the worker placement. Do you take one more round grabbing another spot or do you end your gathering (perhaps slightly prematurely) to be the first in line to explore?

Other mechanics getting mixed with worker placement are secret deployment and set collection. The secret deployment comes from placing your mission discs out at sea in the hopes of claiming various destinations. Therefore, you have to read your situation on what you want to claim and also read your opponent on what they want to claim.

The game is very fun to play and provides a lot of interesting decisions. What I like best about the game is the components. The artwork looks era-appropriate. The ships, even though they are plastic, are of a nice weight and were made from a good mold, because they have good detail and a great fill to them. What I like best are the cardboard treasure chests, which when assembled are very cool looking and serve as the purpose of function and aesthetics. There were a couple of downsides to the game. The first one is game length. It does take about 90 minutes to 120 minutes to play and that's a little more time than my group is willing to invest in a game usually. The second downside is the player count. It plays 3 to 5 people, and my two normal player counts are 2 and 6. Thankfully, there is an expansion that fixes this exact problem. So if you are looking for a medium-weight, historical worker-placement game, consider this one!

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