Friday, October 21, 2016

Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties (Catholic Answers)

When it comes to Christianity, one of the most common complaints atheists, agnostics, and sometimes even Christians have is the Bible. People like to make claims that it contradicts itself, or that God is ruthless and bloodthirsty in the Old Testament. Trent Horn, in his latest book Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties, takes a look at some of the toughest passages in Scripture. He then presents the Catholic perspective on them to help with understanding and acceptance.

The book begins with an introductory chapter on the Catholic view of Scripture. Such topics covered in this chapter include inspiration, canon, interpretation, and inerrancy. The remainder of the book is composed of 23 chapters divided into the following three sections - External Difficulties, Internal Difficulties, and Moral Difficulties. Such chapter titles include "Darwin Refutes Genesis?", "1001 Bible Contradictions"?, and "Bizarre Laws and Cruel Punishments?". Each chapter begins with a claim that people make against Christianity. One such example says, "A modern person cannot trust what is written in a two-thousand-year old book whose authors were illiterate shepherds who thought the earth was flat." Trent Horn then refutes the claim with clear, well-thought out arguments that easily dissolve the erroneous claim. The book then closes with 60 pages of endnotes, in case you want to dive even deeper into the arguments.

On its surface, the book looks to be intimidating. After all, it is a 400+ page hardcover book. However, the old adage about judging a book by its cover rings true here. The claims that Trent Horn refutes in his book are not scholarly arguments the average person would be unfamiliar with, but instead everyday arguments that you probably here from co-workers, friends, and maybe even family. What I really like about this book, is that you don't have to read it in order. Instead, find some arguments that you are used to hearing and read those chapters first. Then, take the time to work your way through the rest of the book at a steady pace. This is the type of book that belongs in every Catholic's home and parish library, and I cannot recommend it enough.

This book was provided to me for free by Catholic Answers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Marrakech (Gigamic)

In sticking with my reviews of Gigamic games, today I am going to review Marrakech. In Marrakech, you and your opponents are rug salesmen trying to have the most rugs visible in the marketplace and the most coins in their pocket. The game is for 2-4 players, ages 8+. It takes 20 minutes to play and retails for about $35.

1. Lay out the game board in the center of the table. This is the Rug Market Square.
2. Place Assam in the center of the Rug Market Square.
3. Each player receives a value of 30 Dirhams (coins).
4. Each player receives a certain number of Rugs depending on the number of players. (Four players = 12 Rugs. Three players = 15 Rugs. Two players = 24 Rugs of two different colors.

Game Play - On your turn, each player must perform the following three actions:
1. Move Assam - Choose the direction you want to move Assam. You may leave him pointed in his current direction or rotate him 90 degrees either way. (Note: He may never be rotated 180 degrees.) Then roll the die, and the number of slippers on the die indicate the number of squares Assam moves in a straight line. 
2. Pay opponent (if necessary) - If you land on an opposing player's rug, you owe your opponent one Dirham per connected square with rugs of the same color.
3. Lay your own Rug - Lay one of your Rugs in a square next to where Assam landed following these placement rules. A rug can be placed on two empty squares, an empty square and half a Rug, two halves of different Rugs. You may never completely cover a single Rug with another single Rug.
Game End
The game ends when the last rug is played. Score is then tallied with each Dirham counting as one point and each visible half of a rug also counting as one point. The most points wins. If there is a tie, the player with the most Dirham wins.

At its core, Marrakech is a simple area control game. You want to be the one with the most visible rugs, so that your opponents land on them and have to pay you for them. However, there is a bit of luck involved with this game as well. Yes, you get to dictate which way to orient Assam before you move, but it's all luck of the roll how far he will move. There are two main things I like about this game. The first one is the simplicity of the game. The setup is quick and the way each turn plays out is three little things. The box says it is for ages 8+, but I can see younger kids being able to understand the basics of this game. With that said, there is still a bit of strategy to this game, so it's not all just dumb luck on who wins.

The other thing I love about this game are the components. Assam, the die, and the coins are all nice, chunky wooden pieces, which feel good in your hands and like they will be long-lasting. And the rugs are actual fabric bits! It would have been so easy (and probably cheaper too) to just have paper squares represent the rugs, but having actual fabric makes the game feel more thematic and it engages not just your sense of sight, but sense of touch as well. I can't wait for my son to get a little bit older, so I can play this game with him. Until then, my wife and I will keep enjoying this game and teaching the area control mechanic to our friends who are new to the gaming world.

This game was provided to me by Gigamic in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Leon Garfield's Shakespeare Stories (New York Review Books)

The first time I read anything by William Shakespeare was 9th grade. I didn't understand it. I don't think my teacher understood. And it didn't ignite a spark in me to read more of his works. I would like to say as my high school years passed I got progressively better, but it wasn't until I read Hamlet that I developed a true interest in Shakespeare. As I have grown older, I have read many different works on Shakespeare, including Catholic interpretations of his works and children's books that make his works more accessible and approachable to a younger audience. Today, I would like to tell you about Leon Garfield's Shakespeare Stories.

The book has twenty-one of Shakespeare's works including Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar to name a few. Each work is approximately 20-30 pages long and is told in prose, not poetry. However, the actual lines from Shakespeare's plays are quoted. The language is simple and straightforward without sacrificing the beauty of the Bard. The book itself is a sturdy hardcover, which is much appreciated, and of a manageable size. The only elements I feel are missing from this book is an introduction, more illustrations, and I would have liked for each story to be broken into acts, like the actual plays were. Overall, I found this book to be the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for children in middle school or perhaps younger, if they are avid readers. In fact, I used the book as jumping off point for some of Shakespeare's plays that I have never read before, so there is a usefulness in this book for adults as well. I would much rather read this work and then the actual play, as opposed to Cliff's Notes. So if you are looking for a book to get your child, tween, or teen with Shakespeare, I can recommend no better book than this one.

This book was provided to me for free by New York Review Books in exchange for an honest review.