Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Macroscope (Mayday Games)

Party games are wildly popular in the board game hobby, because they play a larger number of people than your standard four player game, are easy to learn and quick to play, and are friendly for gamers and non-gamers alike. It's a big reason that Codenames was a smash hit and won game of the year. Mayday Games recently published what I would consider a party game or filler game called Macroscope. It plays 2-6 people (but I think could play more if you had teams) age 6+. It takes about 30 minutes to play and retails for $30.

Setup
1. Before your first game assemble the Macroscope.
2. Place the Macroscope in the center of the table.
3. Place the deck of cards in it with the pizza card on top.
4. Cover the Macroscope with its lid and place random tokens on each round window of the lid.
5. Remove the pizza card.
6. Place the round tracker next to the Macroscope with the marker on space 1.
7. Place the dice in the center of the table and give each player two yellow crystals. The remaining crystals are placed close by.
Game Play
On your turn, roll both dice. For each die, remove one token with a number that matches the die face. For each die you have without a matching token, remove a token of your choice. After each token is removed, you may either make a guess or opt not to and take a yellow token. If you guess and are correct, you receive yellow crystals for each token left on the macroscope. If someone things you are wrong, they may pay two yellow crystals and guess themselves. If you choose not to guess, another player may guess for the price of two yellow crystals. After a successful guess is made, each other player who didn't guess the picture loses as many crystals as there are tokens on the macroscope. Play passes to the next player and the game lasts 10 rounds. The player with the most points is the winner.
Review
Mayday Games tries to put out family friendly games that are easy on the budget and large on the fun meter. Sometimes they succeed and other times they miss the mark. Macroscope succeeds and hits the ball out of the park. The game plays quickly, is easy to teach, and is just a fun, little party puzzle. I particularly liked building the macroscope from cardboard, and it was a nice little element that makes a statement on the table. They could have easily just given us a sheet of paper with holes in it to cover the cards, but they didn't. Having played this game several times, I haven't made it through half of the large deck of cards. Thankfully they are double-sided so when they run out, I can just flip them over and get a new deck to play with. Like most people though, I am hoping that there will be expansion packs that are just more of these cards. The best part of this game is that I can play it with anybody. From people who game to people who don't, young children to older adults, each one has found this game to be a fun little filler. I highly recommend picking up a copy and use this as a light game to introduce people to the modern world of board games.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Miracles (Ignatius Press)

If I asked you to define the word miracle, what would you say? Ignatius Press recently released a DVD, called Miracles, that looks at this phenomenon and attempts to define it. This 35 minute film begins with several priests, Fr. Marcus Holden and Fr. Andrew Pinsent, philosophizing on the subject. Eventually, we get a fairly concise definition.  A miracle is an extraordinary, supernatural event that happens in nature that nature could never produce by itself. However, a miracle is not something that happens just to cause people to wonder at. A miracle happens so that a change will occur in humanity, and people will turn to God.

After we have a definition, the subject turns to Scripture to look at miracles found in the Bible. Examples given from the Old Testament include the Flood, the parting of the Red Sea, and the collapse of the Walls of Jericho. Where we see the most miracles performed are in the New Testament with Jesus. The reason for this is not only because Jesus is God, but also because people then needed convincing since Jesus was founding a new religion. It is interestingly pointed out that despite these miraculous events that people witnessed first-hand, some still turned away from God, because His teachings were too difficult for them. The miracles of Christ were performed, not just to ease people's sufferings, but were for the salvation of souls.

EWTN contributors James and Joanna Bogle contribute to this film as well, and points out that miracles didn't stop when Jesus left this world. Instead, His Apostles' ministries were filled with miracles as well. As time passed, miracles became rarer, except in one situation. Anytime a new mission is established and a conversion of people is attempted, miracles seem to be more abundant. This goes back to the need for these signs to convince people and save their souls. The film goes on to talk about present day miracles, such as the many that are credited to Pope John Paul II while he was still alive and the incorruptible bodies of approximately 140 saints. Other topics covered include the Eucharist, Mary, and shrines in Europe (Fatima and Lourdes, primarily).

When I first received this DVD, I wasn't sure what to expect. Since the film was only 35 minutes long, I wasn't sure what to expect and how in-depth they could actually get. However, after watching it through, I was pleasantly surprised and wanted to immediately watch it again. It is the perfect introduction on miracles and does a masterful job of explaining exactly what miracles are, what purpose they serve, and citing examples. The main point I took away from this DVD is that miracles are not an end to themselves, but serve several purposes. "They convince us of the reality of God, help us when we need divine help, and to point to certain religious truths." This is a great DVD to pick up for small groups or religious education at your parish.

This DVD was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 11, 2017

CVlizations (Passport Game Studios)

When I first got into the world of modern gaming, CV was one of my first experiences. It was like combining Yahtzee and The Game of Life in order to have the most well-lived life at the end. It had everything I wanted in a game - familiar mechanics, fun theme, and great artwork. The only "complaints" I had about the game were that it could only play four people and that I wish there were more cards to choose from. There was an expansion released for it called CV: Gossip, which solved the problem of more cards, but it was a little too mean for my group. However, when I heard about the sequel, CVlizations, being released, I knew I wanted to try it. In CVlizations, you are no longer trying to build the best life, but instead your a tribal leader trying to create the most advanced and prosperous civilization. CVlizations is a game for 2-5 players, ages 10+. It takes about 45 minutes to play and retails for $35.
Setup
1. Put the board in the middle of the table.
2. Put the wood, food, and stone tokens in piles on their places on the board.
3. Place the crown on the age track of the first age.
4. Put the happiness tokens near the board.
5. Sort the cards into decks according to their backs. Shuffle each deck separately and place them on their spots on the board.
6. Draw four cards from the first deck and place them face up onto the idea track on the board.
7. Give each player a set of eight order cards in their chosen color and one wood, food, and stone.
8. The last player to hold a tool is the starting player and received the leader helm token.
Game Play - The game lasts 3 ages with 3 rounds each and each round has the following 4 phases:
1. Order Phase - The starting player chooses two cards from their order cards to play. One is played face-up and the other face-down. In clockwise order, each player does the same. After all players have played, flip the face-down cards face-up.
2. Action Phase - Players resolve the orders in the following order - Thieving, Logging, Hunting, Quarrying, Cunning, Slacking, and Trading. (Note: The doubling cards doubles a player's order, and is not its own order.) When several players play the same cards, go in clockwise order. The effect of each order card is determined by the amount of people who played it. In some cases, you might get nothing for the card.
3. Development Phase - Starting with the first player, each person can use their resources to buy one idea card from those available on the board. The card is placed face-up in front of the player, and a new card replaces it on the board.
4. Cleanup Phase - Pass the starting player token clockwise. After turn 3, the first age ends. Players gather all their order cards into their deck. After turn 6, the second age ends. Players gather all their order cards into their deck. The Age I and II idea deck is no longer used, but now Age III deck is. After turn 9, the game is over.

Add up happiness tokens you received throughout the game and any happiness symbols on the idea cards you purchased. Highest score is the winner.

Review
Anyone who has ever played CV before will recognize the familiar symbology and hilarious artwork present within CVlizations too. The game mechanics, however, are vastly different. Instead of rolling dice and pressing your luck, you are practicing hand management. By reading your opponents and reading the board, you hope to gain an advantage over them. I am glad they added an option for a fifth player to this game, but now I find myself wanting a sixth player too. (A gamer is never satisfied, I guess.) Like CV, I did find myself wishing for more cards in this game. Hopefully, there will be an expansion soon that adds some to increase replay value in the game. What I like best about this game is the theme. There is nothing more satisfying in a game (to me) than to build a glorious civilization that reigns supreme over all the others. Unfortunately, most civilization building games take hours to play and my group won't play a game of that length. CVlizations is the perfect length, gives you the same satisfaction of building a civilization, has great artwork, and doesn't take itself too seriously. Highly recommended!

This game was provided to me by Passport Game Studios in exchange for an honest review.