Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Road to Bethlehem: Journeys Through Time and Space

As I play more games and own more games, I am beginning to become more discerning. Time, space, and funds are all limited so you have to be more discerning when separating the wheat from the chaff. Recently, I was introduced to a new and interesting game called The Road to Bethlehem. As you can probably assume by the name, The Road to Bethlehem takes place in biblical times. You and your fellow participants are TAU Time Travelers who have journeyed back 2000 years into the past to the time when Christ was born. The game plays 3 to 8 people, ages 8+. It currently retails on Amazon for $89.
How to Play
First, you will need to gather everyone around the table and pick a Game Master. Think of this role as similar to a dungeon master in Dungeons and Dragons. Unlike the fantasy game though, you will have a full book of narratives to draw from and won't have to pull from your own creativity (or lack thereof in my case). Each journey or adventure will start with an encounter with the Archangel Raphael. Raphael will ask a signature question and then distribute equipment tokens. One player draws the first Encounter Card and the Game Master will read the narrative aloud, presenting the team with a number of choices on how they wish to proceed. A team decision must then be reached, and then a challenge of some sort is given to the players to perform. These challenges can include answering questions or completing some physical task using outside materials like paper and toothpicks. Once the challenge is completed or time expires, the challenge is scored. Based on the score, players attributes can increase or decrease. This will influence how the adventure goes and eventually ends. Will you meet the Holy Family at the time Christ was born or not? If you do meet them, under what circumstances will it be?
If I am being honest, which I always try to be when I am writing a review, I have mixed feelings about this game. For starters, I always have reservations about religious games. Usually, the game play is inferior compared to other modern board games. This is one of the few exceptions. The stories in The Book of Adventures do a splendid job of leading the game master and adventurers on a multi-branching path. You will not always win and you will get frustrated at times in your failures, but this book is the heartbeat of the game.

The other big positive of this game is the component quality. The cardboard and cardstock in this game are of high quality. Other pieces feel/appear laser-cut to ensure that when you pick up pieces in this game, they will have a nice feel in your hands. Unfortunately, with this quality comes a pretty hefty price tag. At the moment, $89 is a steep price to pay for a game for most families, even one as unique as this. However, I have been told by the publisher that this game is what you would call a base game, meaning there will be additional expansions/scenarios. So what you are buying is a "system" to play with different books you can "plug in and play" to give you more replay value.  However, this price tag, I fear still might mean families won't spend that much for it, so I instead encourage you to recommend this game to your parish or school religious education program! The other note on the components is that the box doesn't come with everything you need. There are tasks you are asked to do that require random household items, like paper or toothpicks (in fairly large quantities). Most people will feel that for the price tag, everything should already be in the box. Playing through the game, my family and friends really enjoyed the experience it provided. Yes, there were some fiddly parts involved with the game play, but there was a nice tension when playing of, "Will we succeed? Will we meet the Holy Family?"
This game was provided to me for free by the creator in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Bringing the Gospel of John to Life (Our Sunday Visitor)

Today, I am reviewing Bringing the Gospel of John to Life. This is the fourth and final book of George Martin's series, with each of these thick and meaty books being published by Our Sunday Visitor. The book is a whopping 600+ pages long and is what you would call a verse-by-verse commentary. The book and some of the other chapters begin with the author providing us some orientation to the Scripture passage we are about to read. Each chapter is then broken down into sections with the Scripture passage first, followed by some cross-references to other Scripture passages. After this, each verse is given a commentary on the meaning of the passage with focus on language, symbolism, and relation to other passages in Scripture. There are also little "bonus" sections sprinkled throughout the book entitled Background which covers a wide variety of topics, including Bethany, Capernaum, Satan, etc.

This book is brilliantly written and provides a thorough exposition of the Gospel. The whole four volume set is one that belongs in any student of the Bible's library. What I like best about this book is that it includes the Scripture and the commentary. Therefore, you don't need to go back and forth between your Bible and this book, but have it all in one convenient volume. Another great thing about this book is the language used. A lot commentaries, which are great, can overwhelm you with knowledge and be just too deep for most people. This commentary, however, is straightforward and to the point. George Martin spells out the Gospel in black and white and makes it accessible for everyone. I recommend this book (or any of the other three in this series), but recommend you read through them slowly and absorb as much knowledge as you can.

This book was provided to me by Our Sunday Visitor in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Scripture Footnotes (Our Sunday Visitor)

Have you ever wondered what it was like in the times of Jesus? I know we have the Gospels and other historical accounts, but not everyone has the time to spend doing that much research and reading. Thankfully, there were great men and women before us who did and compiled it in an easy to read format. George Martin wrote just such a book and titled it Scripture Footnotes, a clever title because footnotes are helpful text when reading something difficult and because he wants us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. For those of you unfamiliar with George Martin, he was the founding editor of the Scripture magazine God's Word Today. He also wrote one of the best series on the Gospels called Bringing the Gospel of Matthew/Mark/Luke/John to Life, all of which were published by Our Sunday Visitor. Today, however, I would just like to focus on Scripture Footnotes. The book is approximately 150 pages long and is divided into the following seven sections:

1. Daily Life in the Time of Jesus
2. The Lay of the Land: Regions and places
3. The Lay of the Land: Towns
4. The Jewish World of Jesus
5. The People in Jesus' World
6. What Comes Next?
7. Jesus

Each section is then broken down into subsections that are a paragraph or a page long. Such subsections talk about different languages - Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek; what people ate, who were the different Jewish groups, etc. Sections Two and Three, "The Lay of the Land" were the most interesting sections in this book for me. I can't tell you how many different times I have been reading a Gospel passage and wanted to pull out a map or get a better idea of the significance of the places Jesus visited. For example, in this book I learned that Tiberias was a capital city constructed by Herod Antipas. While it was being constructed, a cemetery was discovered there making it unclean for Jews to live there, and a big reason why mainly Gentiles lived there. During his time on this earth, Jesus never visited there, despite its close proximity to Capernaum. However, he did gain several followers from there, so word of Him spread there despite His never setting foot there.

This is a quick and simple read. You can sit down and just flip to the sections that pertain what you are currently reading in the Gospels or parts that interest you most, or you can sit down and read it in one sitting without meaning to like I did. After reading through this book, you will see a great increase in your knowledge of the Gospels and will want to dive deeper into your studies, re-reading the Gospels alongside this book. Highly recommended!

This book was provided to me by Our Sunday Visitor in exchange for an honest review.