Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Unreal Estate (Grand Gamers Guild)

The tabletop hobby has been growing what seems exponentially these past few years. With this growth comes an increase in the consumer's appetite. They want bigger and better games with lots of dice, cards, miniatures, etc. Now, I'm all for getting your money's worth, but I think a lot of gamers (myself included) miss out on smaller, lesser-known projects sometimes, because of this insatiable appetite. Therefore, I'd like to take the time today to tell you about a little game currently on Kickstarter called Unreal EstateUnreal Estate is a card-drafting, set collection game for 2-4 players. It takes only 20 minutes to play and can be yours for a pledge of $18.

1. Shuffle the main deck of Building Cards (Cards with yellow banners).
2. Deal each player two of those cards.
3. Create a Scrap Pile to the side of one table. The size of the pile will be determined by the number of players - 4 cards in a two-player game, 3 cards in a three-player game, and 5 cards in four-player game. (Note: Cards should be stacked with matching cards and in a way so that you can see how many cards are in each stack.)
4. Place the Special Building Cards back in the deck of Building Cards and reshuffle the deck.

Game Play - At the start of each round, place five cards from the top of the deck face up across the center of the table to form the Proposal Board. Starting with the first player and going clockwise, you may take one of the follow three actions:
1. Drafting - Take one card from the Proposal Board and put it into your hand.
2. Play a Building Card - Play a card/cards from your hand. If it is a Special Building Card, carry out the action and then discard the card. If it is a regular Building Card, it must match a card in the Scrap Pile. Proceed to scoring.
3. Scoring - When you play a card from your hand to score, you must play all the cards of that suit. You then add up the value of your cards and multiple it by the number of matching cards in the Scrap Pile. Lastly, you discard all the cards that were used. Example: You play three Wizard's Towers, and there are two Wizard's Towers in the Scrap Pile. A Wizard Tower is worth three points, so (3+3+3) x (2) = 18 points.
4. Once all players have taken a turn, the remaining cards in the Proposal Board are moved to the Scrap Pile.

The game ends when there are no cards left in the deck to place in the Proposal Board. Each player then gets one more turn to play cards and score. Highest score is the winner.

This is a simple game to setup, learn, and play, but it is one that makes you think the entire time. The reason for this is because there is a touch of press-your-luck in deciding exactly when to play your cards to score. Do you wait one extra turn and hope that more of the cards you need show up, or do you take the points and run because they might not be there the next turn? This is the struggle you'll face every turn. I generally take the points and run, but I'm a "bird in the hand" kind of guy.

Apart from the beautiful simplicity of this game, the game itself is simply beautiful. Each card is brilliantly done and calls on different fantastical creatures, including dwarves, elves, orcs, and goblins. The artist, Corinne Roberts, has an artistic style that is Tolkien-esque. For example, the Halfling House makes you feel like you're in the Shire with Bilbo and Frodo. Each card has a unique flavor to it and an amazing amount of detail that shows special care went into the creation of each card. Both the buildings and their backdrops invite you to play the game again and again, just so you can admire the artistic creations she produced.

The game is currently on Kickstarter, is fully funded, and has unlocked a few stretch goals! However, there are some more awesome stretch goals waiting to be unlocked the more money they raise. So if you are a fan of fantasy, quick card games, and beautiful art, you'll want to go back this game!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Volume 2 (ICS Publications)

We are quickly approaching the Feast Day of St. Teresa of Avila, which is October 15th. Two weeks ago, I reviewed Volume One of her Collected Works and to continue my review theme, I am now going to tell you about Volume Two. This book contains two of St. Teresa's more well-known works - The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle. In addition to these two, we are also treated to Meditations on the Song of Songs. Like the first volume, the translators, Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh and Fr. Otilio Rodriguez, wrote introductions to these key works. These introductions provide us with information such as historical context, outline, and central theme.

The Way of Perfection was written while St. Teresa was a nun of the Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was intended as a rule for the discalced nuns. She starts by telling the nuns why she founded this monastery. Some of the subjects she talks about are detachment from worldly things, mortification, perfect love of God, and prayer. Meditations on the Song of Songs is remarkable for several reasons. but the two primary reasons are her lack of Biblical training and the fact that she was a woman commenting on the Song of Songs. It is not a verse-by-verse commentary, but her observations are astute and show a knowledge that can best be described as mystical. The Interior Castle is my favorite work of St. Teresa's. It is hard to do justice talking about it, but in this work, she described her ideal journey of faith. Each level gets the journeyer one step closer to God. The first three mansions deal with ordinary prayer, and the final four mansions deal with contemplative prayer. She does not take any credit for progress on the journey. Instead, she gives all credit to the Sacraments and devotion to God's will.

Each time you read through the words of St. Teresa of Avila, you are treated to the words of a brilliant Doctor of the Church. I would normally say that if you are only going to own one of the volumes of her works, it would be this one. However, I think you really need Volume One as well to appreciate the context of Volume Two and respect the progression of her writings. The only problem I have with this book is the cover doesn't match Volume One and Volume Three, but that is a petty complaint at best. Be sure to check back here in two weeks when I tell you about Volume Three.

This book was provided to me for free by ICS Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The New Jerusalem Bible (Image Books)

I have read a lot of Bible translations in my 30+ years on this Earth - Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. There are MANY Protestant translations. Some are too stilted to read (I'm looking at you King James), and some are too casual to read (Sorry Good News Translation!). Catholics don't have that "luxury" of all the translations. The main versions I can think of are the Revised Standard (RSV) and New Revised (NRSV); New American (NAB) and New America Revised (NABRE); the Douay-Rheims (DR); and the Jerusalem Bible (JB) and New Jerusalem (NJB). Each translation has strengths and weaknesses, and different people have different preferences for translations. I'm not going to tell you which one to pick today, but instead just tell you about about the New Jerusalem Bible as it is one I haven't read before until recently.

The New Jerusalem Bible was published in 1985. It is a hardcover volume that is over 2100 pages long. It is single column format (rare for Bibles, but appreciated) and contains introductions to sections, i.e, the Pentateuch and specific books of the Bible. At the back of the Bible are supplements like colored maps, a chronological table, and various indices (major persons, footnotes, etc.) It has some inclusive language, but doesn't go overboard with it. The pages are somewhat see through, but not so thin that you feel like they will rip merely from turning it. There are tons of cross-references in the margins and the amount of footnotes is impressive. The margins themselves feel a little bit bigger (not much mind you) than other editions, which will give you room for notes, if you are the type of person who marks up their Bible.

Overall, I'm pleased with this version of the Bible and would say if you can get it for a reasonable price (MSRP is $50, but Amazon usually has it for $30), it is a good Bible for someone who hasn't read through the Bible before. The language is very inviting without being casual. It is not liturgical like the NABRE, and not literal like the RSV. It is somewhere in the middle, and what I would call a reading Bible. You won't go into great depth using this Bible as a study tool, but it would be useful for the first reading of a passage and then going deeper with a different translation of the Bible. I could see myself reading this one over the NABRE if I am reading for enjoyment, mainly because it flows better (to me) and the page formatting is much more appealing to the eyes. If I was picking one Bible to read for enjoyment and not in-depth study, it would be this one.

This Bible was provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!