Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Grizzled (Cool Mini Or Not)

Allow yourself to travel back in time for a moment. It is August 1914. Austria-Hungary was at war with Serbia. Germany had declared war on Russia and had already entered Luxembourg, most likely to make invading France and/or Belgium easier. France and Belgium had mobilized, but like Britain they were not involved in World War I yet. This is the setting for the cooperative card game called The Grizzled. In this game, you and up to four other players will play as a group of friends, facing the grim reality of war, and trying to not only survive, but all come back alive. Let's get to the setup.
1. Each player chooses a Grizzled card (character) and places it with the Good Luck Charm side (indicated by a four-leaf clover) face up.
2. Each player gets three Support tiles - one left tile, one right tile, and one random tile (the random one could be left, right, double left, or double right.)
3. Place the Peace card (looks like a dove) and Monument card (looks like a statue) to the center of the table.
4. Shuffle all the Trials cards together. Deal 25 face down on the Peace card. This will form your Trials pile. The remaining 34 will go face down on the Monument card. This is your Morale Reserve.
5. Place the appropriate number of Speech tokens between the Peace card and Monument card (Five tokens in a 2-3 player game, four in a 4 player game, and three in a 5 player game).
6. The Mission Leader token (first player token) is given to the hairiest player, and the game begins.
Game Play - The objective of the game is to complete a series of Missions, trying to empty the Trials pile. The game is won if the Peace card is visible and all players have no cards left in their hands.
1. Preparation - Determine the number of Trial cards each player will be dealt from the Trials pile, with a minimum of one per person. (Note: On the first turn, each player must be dealt three.)
2. The Mission - The players (starting with the Mission Leader) may take one of the four actions:
a. Play a Trials card from their hand to the center of the table known as No Man's Land. Mixed within the Trial cards are Hard Knocks cards which will go next to the player's Grizzled card.
b. Use their Good Luck Charm by flipping their Grizzled card over and removing one card that has a matching Threat symbol (Night, Rain, Snow, Mask, Shell, and Whistle).
c. Make a Speech - use a Speech token by naming one of the six Threats. Each player may discard one card with that matching symbol from their hand.
d. Withdraw from the mission and play a Support tile. Your Support tile is played in secret face down and determines which of your fellow players gains support.
The Mission will end in Success when all players have withdrawn. The Mission will end in failure if there are three matching Threat symbols. With a failure, the cards in No Man's Land are shuffled back into the Trials pile.
3. Support - At the end of the Mission, players reveal their Support tiles and give them to the appropriate player. If someone received a majority (no ties) in Support tiles, they can get rid of two Hard Knocks card or recover their Good Luck Charm (if the mission was a success) or get rid of one Hard Knocks card (if the mission was a failure).
4. Morale Drop - Count the number of cards in all the players' hands and transfer that number of cards (minimum of three) from the Morale Reserve to the Trials pile.
5. The Mission Leader then gains a Speech token and passes the Mission Leader token to their left.
The first thing I noticed about this game was the artwork. It is drawn in a cartoon format, but not a silly type of cartoon, more like political cartoons. This spurred me to do a little investigating, and I learned that the artist for this game was Bernard Verlhac, also known as Tignous. Mr. Verlhac was a cartoonist for the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He was killed in the attack that took place in Paris in January 2015. As if this game wasn't depressing enough, this added another layer to it. However, just like war is ugly, sometimes, life is as well. The theme of this game is a very somber one, but it is this real theme that permeates the entire game. The biggest example being that some of the characters in the game were real people.

The mechanics of the game are deceptively simple. Play a card and try not to make a set of three on the table. This simple mechanic is complicated by the fact that cards have multiple symbols on them. Add in the Hard Knocks cards, which also add symbols or just create additional hurdles, you must overcome, and you'll find that you lose this game more than you win it. This frustrated me to no end the first couple of times I played it, because I lost every time. I eventually stopped playing just to win the game and to enjoy the experience. Once I started doing that, I finally won a game. That's not to say I've solved the game. You can make all the right moves in this game, but sometimes the cards just don't fall like they should, and you still lose. (Another true to life theme)

About the only thing I didn't like about this game was the 2-player mode. It required the use of a dummy player, and it just came off a bit clunky. Luckily, there is an expansion called The Grizzled: At Your Orders. This expansions help improve 2-player experience and also adds solo play and mission cards of varying difficulty. Ramping up the difficulty is always good for people who find themselves winning too frequently.

When I received this box in the mail, I was surprised by the size of the game. The box is approximately 5.25" x 5.25" x 2", which is quite small for board game boxes. Don't let the size of the box fool you though! It is the perfect size and contains components that are beautifully simple and simply beautiful. The game also carries some weight to it (both in strategy and emotional toll). Even though you are just laying cards down, it still transports you back in time and makes you weigh each decision you make. Will your friendship be enough to get you through the war? Or will the war claim more victims, be it physical, emotional, or psychological? If you are looking to be introduced to the world of cooperative gaming or looking for a new challenge, I strongly encourage you to spend the $20-25 and pick up a copy of The Grizzled. You won't regret it.

This game was provided to me for free by Cool Mini Or Not in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek (Baker Academic)

Learning another language is rarely easy for people. Yes, there are some people who are naturals and simply excel at it, but for most of us it is a real challenge. It is an even bigger challenge when it is a language no one speaks anymore, like Latin or Biblical Greek. However, learning even the basics of these languages could prove infinitely useful and beneficial to your spiritual life. Today, I am going to tell you about the book Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek.

Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek begins with an introduction on why one should study Biblical Greek. Some of these reasons include slowing down when reading the Bible and noticing nuances you wouldn't get from the English language. The author, Dr. Rodney A. Whitacre, explains that two good ways to study Biblical Greek is by reading large passages (focusing more on fluency, than accuracy) and meditating on the Word. Chapter Two focuses on building a vocabulary. There are 5,393 lexemes in the Greek New Testament, but an introductory course will only teach you between 350 and 600. In this chapter, he teaches root words, word formation, etymology, and strategies for learning vocabulary. Chapter Three is by far the longest chapter, as it concerns parsing and endings. There are many helpful tables in this chapter, related to all the noun declensions. Dr. Whitacre recommends familiarity over rote memorization, but realizes that many people prefer the rote method, so he strongly encourages the reader to use all your senses when going that route. The remainder of the book continues to build on getting familiar with texts through sentences, passages, and meditation.

So who is this book for? If you have never attempted to learn Greek before, then you might be better off starting with Learn New Testament Greek and/or Basic Greek in 30 Minutes a Day. This book is better served if you have learned even the basics of Greek or are trying to reacquaint yourself with Greek. What I really liked about this book is that it places an emphasis on meditation like Lectio Divina. A lot of books are focused solely on learning Greek for academic purposes, but this author realizes that learning Greek will be good not just for your brain, but for your soul as well. For that reason, I highly recommend this book for seminarians, priests, teachers, and students. If you have ever had a Greek class (or tried to teach yourself Greek) and need some additional guidance, you should check this book out.

This book was provided to me for free by Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review. If you are looking for some helpful videos to accompany this book, click here!

Friday, July 22, 2016

On the Tree of the Cross (Holy Trinity Publications)

The doctrine of atonement is a tricky one as its origin in the English language is due to Tyndale improperly translating the Greek word for reconciliation. But what exactly is atonement? Some see it as the "at-one-ing" of God and man, by Christ's saving work. Others use it in conjunction with terms like expiation (making reparations for the guilt of wrongdoing) and propitiation (the act of appeasing God). When put with words like that, it's no wonder some scholars squirm and feel uncomfortable. In large part, Eastern Orthodoxy has steered clear of the term atonement and viewed it as an incorrect Western notion. However, one man, Fr. Georges Florovsky, devoted his life to clarifying and spreading the Orthodox teaching of atonement and showing that the division between East and West on the subject of atonement isn't as clear cut as many like to make it out to be. The book On the Tree of the Cross tackles this subject.

On the Tree of the Cross is divided into two parts. The first part of the book is a collection of papers which were delivered at the First Annual Patristic Symposium in Honor of Fr. Florovsky. The second part of the book is a collection of Fr. Florovsky's writings on atonement, much from previously unpublished and/or untranslated works. Some authors of the papers from the first part include Fr. John Behr (Dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary), Archimandrite Irenei Steenberg (Director of the Institute for Orthodox Studies), and Fr. Matthew Baker (Memory Eternal). In one paper, we see St. Irenaeus' view on atonement, with Jonah as a key example. In another paper, the Ascetic Fathers are our guides to atonement, both personal and intercessory. In the writings of Fr. Florovsky, we are presented with four writings that give us a small sample of his work. They were written over decades of time, but what is clearly seen in all of them is Christ's atoning sacrifice throughout all of Creation.

There were sometimes I had a difficult time reading Fr. Florovsky's works, but I attribute much of that too it being a translation from another language. That quibble aside, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the papers in the first part of the book. With all the references to Patristic writings, it felt like this book was compiled with me in mind. If you love Patristics, like myself, and want a better understanding of atonement, then I highly recommend this book. I leave this review wondering if there will be future books from other Annual Symposiums in Honor of Fr. Florovsky. I know I would be a customer if so!

This book was provided to me for free by Holy Trinity Publications in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!