Monday, November 20, 2017

Flatline: A FUSE Aftershock Game (Renegade Game Studios)

The bombs have finally stopped exploding. We have survived, but just barely. Unfortunately, there are a lot of injuries and it is up to us to treat them and save as many of our crew members as possible before time runs out. This is the world of Flatline: A FUSE Aftershock GameFlatline is a game for 1 to 5 players, age 13+. It takes approximately 45 minutes to play and retails for $50.

Setup
1. Assemble the board by putting the four corner pieces together and Life Support Dial in the center.
2. Shuffle the Emergency Cards and place them face-down near the area of the board numbered 1 through 6. Place the Emergency Dice in the spot next to the number 1.
3. Shuffle the Patient Cards and deal a number face-down based on difficulty and player count.
4. Turn the Life Support Dial so that the connection with the diamond is lined up with the first space of one Patient Card.
5. Place a Power Cube on each Recharging Station.
6. Take the Power Meter equal to number of players, placing it on the green side for normal or red side for expert. Fill the Power Meter with the remaining eight Power Cubes.
7. Give the most experienced player the player aid tile. They are the Chief Medical Officer and are responsible for the flow of the game. Another player will be intern and in charge of sorting and redistributing dice.
8. Have each player choose a dice color and put six of them in their area, placing one die off to the side and the other back in the box.
9. Place the Cleared Tiles and Lock-Down Tiles within reach of the board.

Game Play - The goal of the game is treat all the Patient Cards before you run out of time. Each round is played as such:

Pre-Countdown
1. Lose Power - Remove the left-most Power Cube from the Power Meter.
2. Add Emergencies - Flip over a number of Emergency Cards equal to the number underneath the Power Cube just removed. Add them face-up to the board filling in empty spots on the numbers 1 through 6. If necessary, make a second row above the first row.
3. Roll the Emergency Dice - Roll the two Emergency Dice and resolve the Emergency Cards (in numeric order) based on the dice results.
4. Planning - Players can discuss a strategy now. Time is unlimited, but institute a timer if you deem necessary.

Countdown
5. Countdown - Players have one minute to place their dice. Once time expires or all dice or placed, this step is over. You must match your dice according to the icons on the Patient Cards, and follow rules accordingly, i.e., one player playing all dice or all players needing to place dice.

Resolution
6. Resolve Cards - Beginning with cards in the Stat Area and moving to Emergency Area, resolve cards. If a Stat Area card isn't cleared, it is flipped face-down and put near the red-edge of the board. (Note: Too many of these cards will cause you to lose the game.) If it is resolved, it is put near the green-edge of the board and will provide you a one-time bonus. Remove any Emergency Area cards you cleared.
7. Resolve Patient Cards and Recharging Stations - Beginning with the Patient Card connected to the diamond on the Life Support Dial, go line-by-line and see if a line on a Patient Card is fully resolved. If so, place a Cleared Tile on that line. If all lines are cleared on a Patient Card, that patient is saved and you might trigger a bonus or penalty. Next, if a Recharging Station was filled with the appropriate dice for that round, you may place a Power Cube back in the Power Meter.
8. Turn the Life Support Dial - After everything has been resolved and dice returned, turn the Life Support Dial once clockwise, so that the diamond is now on the first space of the next Patient Card.

The game ends in success if all Patient Cards are treated or failure if the last Power Cube is removed from the Power Meter or if 3 face-down cards are placed in the red-edge border of the board.

Review
If I am being completely honest, I hate real-time games. (Okay, hate is too strong of a word...it is more a strong dislike.) My game group generally like to take our time and think when playing. Add small children to the mix, and real-time games don't generally work for us. When I played FUSE, I found it a stressful 10 minutes, mixed with a low success rate, but I had fun trying, probably because it was only 10 minutes. However, it was not something I would seek out and play time and time again, mainly because it was real time. So what on earth made me want to try Flatline?

I think the biggest factor in trying another real time was that this one was micro-bursts. Unlike, FUSE, where it's 10 minutes of stress, This is one minute of stress followed by an evaluation. Then, another minute of stress followed by an evaluation. This was my kind of real-time game. I could deal with one-minute and taking time to briefly resolve and evaluate after the fact. This felt like a comfortable mix of strategy, planning, and chaos, as opposed to 10 minutes of no time to think, follow your gut, and hope for the best. Also, it being only a minute makes it a bit more friendly for gamers with kids. You can tell your kid, "Wait one minute," and they'll generally be okay. If you tell your kid, "Wait 10 minutes," your house might be in shambles when you look up from the game.

The theme is supposed to feel like a hospital or emergency room in space, but apart from the real time stress of hospitals/emergency rooms, it doesn't entirely immerse you in theme. Since it's not constant stress pounding away at you the entire time you are playing, you can spice up your game by naming the Patient Cards (sticky notes) or giving them roles, but this might make the game too real for some people. The components are top-notch and what I've come to expect from Renegade Game Studios
The cardboard is thick, and the dice are plentiful and the spinning cardboard dial adds a nice touch and feel.

After playing through this game a few times, I feel like I have finally found a real-time game that is just my speed. It provided a good balance of stress and calm, planning and frenetic execution. I still don't love real-time games, but if someone asked me to play this game, I would play it, and if someone asked me for a real-time recommendation, it would be this game. Good job, Kane Klenko! You made me like a real-time game!

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wisdom: God's Vision for Life (Ascension Press)

When people first pick up a Bible, they think they are getting one book that they can read from cover to cover, in order, and understand everything. What they don't realize is that there are 73 books and many different "genres" within the Bible. There is Law, Historical Narrative, Allegory, Apocalyptic and Wisdom literature. While it might be wrong to pick a favorite genre, if I had to it would definitely be the Wisdom books, which are comprised of Proverbs, Wisdom, Sirach, and Ecclesiastes. There is just something about reading a chapter or even a few verses a day from these four books that puts your day on the right path and helps make you spiritually smarter. Ascension Press realizes the value of these books too, and that's why one of their latest studies focuses on them. It's called Wisdom: God's Vision for Life and features Ascension Press veteran Jeff Cavins paired with Thomas Smith. This DVD series is divided into the following eight sessions:

1. Introduction
2. Wisdom in Decision-Making
3. Wisdom in Finances
4. Wisdom in Relationships
5. Wisdom for Peace of Mind
6. Wisdom in Speech
7. Wisdom in Age
8. Wisdom in Christ

The study is done in Lectio Divina format. You will read, reflect, relate and rest. There will home preparation which you will do individually, a video presentation everyone will watch together, a small group discussion, and lastly a review of everyone's responses. In addition to focusing on the four Old Testament Wisdom books mentioned above, there are also selections from Psalms, Tobit, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, and Ephesians to name a few. What I like best about this program is the practical approach it takes to wisdom literature. It would be very easy to make a series that examines one book of the Bible and go through it verse-by-verse. Instead, the creators looked for common themes found in all the books and focused on different areas where people need the most help, i.e., finances, relationships, speech, etc. So why should you or your parish invest in this program? Wisdom 7 says the following:

In Wisdom is a spirit
intelligent, holy, unique,
Manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
Not baneful, loving the good, keen,
unhampered, beneficent, kindly,
Firm, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-seeing,
And pervading all spirits,
though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion,
and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.
For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.
For she is the refulgence of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the power of God,
the image of his goodness.
And she, who is one, can do all things,
and renews everything while herself perduring;
And passing into holy souls from age to age,
she produces friends of God and prophets.
For there is nought God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.
For she is fairer than the sun
and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she takes precedence;
for that, indeed, night supplants,
but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ticket to Ride: First Journey App (Asmodee)

One of the very first games I remember playing when I was introduced to modern tabletop gaming was called Ticket to Ride. It is a modern classic by Alan R. Moon and contains elements of hand management, set collection, and route building. It also comes with cool train shaped pieces, which give a nice visual effect when claiming your routes. It was beautiful and simple and the perfect introduction for families and new gamers. Recently a children's version of this game was released called Ticket to Ride: First Journey, which is designed for children ages 6+. It simplifies the game even more and makes it accessible to children at a much younger age. As of late, Asmodee has been on a tear releasing app versions of their popular games, and this is now true of Ticket to Ride: First Journey too!
In this game, you are given route cards to complete, like regular Ticket to Ride. However, the map is smaller and routes are generally shorter. Also, unlike regular Ticket to Ride, you are not trying to complete the longest and best routes, you are just trying to be the first to complete six routes. The app plays up to four people with the ability to play either against the AI or your friends in pass and play mode. It is bright and colorful, which appeals to kids, and the graphics on it have movement and motion to them when connecting cities, which is fun and captivating. After each game you win, you also get a picture to go into your collection and collect, which is like a little trophy for kids. I will say that playing on a phone, the trains are a little hard to place due to screen size, but that is no problem when playing with a tablet. At $1.99, this game is a steal because you get this map and the Europe map if you sign up for an Asmodee account. Highly recommended!